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The University of the Sunshine Coast — Explore

The University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) Explore program offers a creative approach to developing children’s career aspirations during their upper primary years to improve their understanding and awareness of higher education as a viable post-school option.

The program offers a scaffolded suite of online lessons for Years 4, 5 and 6 which are based on the themes of adventure and discovery. Students are invited to take a journey to a deserted island and use their imagination to build their ideal community. In doing so, they develop an awareness of their own skills and interests while discovering which skills are necessary for a range of different jobs.

Year 5 students are also invited to attend a career expo at their local university to provide direct hands-on experiences of different types of jobs and information about a range of career pathways.


Participating partner schools in low socioeconomic status (SES) regions:

  • whole of cohort, Years 4, 5 and 6
  • parents/carers
  • teaching staff.

The expo highlights partnerships with a number of community stakeholders:

  • Vocational and Educational Training sector (TAFE)
  • employers in the local community
  • university academics.


USC has a long-term commitment to the delivery of aspiration building programs within the community. Between 2011 and 2016, USC delivered several awareness building career development programs targeting primary students. These included the USQ Smart Steps program for Year 5 and the USC MyTED program for Years 4 and 6, both of which combined in-class lessons with an immersive expo. A review in 2015 identified that these programs could be consolidated into one streamlined program which used existing good practice and ensured a stronger alignment with the six HEPPP guiding principles. The new program emphasises early intervention and continuing engagement while offering an integrated and multi-layered approach.

Activities and Progress

The Explore program team comprised two curriculum developers, staff involved in the delivery of existing primary programs (Smart Steps and MyTED), school stakeholders, and an accessibility officer. Program development commenced with a review of existing programs to build on early learnings and identify key components of good practice. Examples of these components included the immersive expos (which formed part of both existing programs), and MyTED’s use of a story to engage students in the lesson activities.

USC Explore

Explore was developed as an online program with the option of paper resources being available to schools with limited internet access. The program was designed as a series of scaffolded lessons for Years 4, 5 and 6 and an immersive expo on campus for students in Year 5. The online resources include lesson plans linked to the Australian Curriculum, activity sheets and video clips.

The lessons were piloted in a participating school to ensure they were effective and engaging for the students prior to the Explore website being launched in early 2017.


On average, across all participating schools involved in the Smart Steps program, 85 per cent of students either agreed or strongly agreed that the program raised their awareness of further study. Ninety-one per cent either agreed or strongly agreed that they would like to go to university or TAFE.

Over the last three years:

  • 2015:
    16 schools and 450 students reached via Smart Steps in the Gympie region.
  • 2016:
    21 schools and 1,000 students engaged via Smart Steps in the Gympie, Wide Bay and Sunshine Coast regions.
  • 2016:
    Development of the scaffolded online career suite, Explore. Preliminary findings from the Explore pilot indicate it successfully engaged students and encouraged them to consider a range of career pathways.

Sustainable Impacts

The program is fully HEPPP funded and is available online, providing schools and other institutions with a suite of lessons for Years 4, 5 and 6, online teaching resources and a model for delivering the on-campus events in a way that provides the opportunity for the package to be embedded within other institutions’ footprints.

Due to the accessibility of the online lesson plans and resources, Explore is a cost-effective sustainable package that will lend itself to further development of a secondary school program to ensure continuity and long-term engagement with low SES communities.

USC is committed to long-term engagement when delivering outreach programs and is exploring future opportunities to collaborate with school staff, students and parents to diversify the resources, focusing on an interactive approach and the possible development of an app linked to the package.

This case study was one of 35 featured in the NCSEHE’s 2017 publication Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program: Seven Years On.

Posted 29 October 2018 Posted in General, Low SES