From education to employment

Aston University and apprenticeship provider use AI to increase course completion rates

  • Software platform to encourage apprentices to complete their training developed through a knowledge transfer partnership with Aston University
  • Uses machine learning and predictive analytics to provide in-depth data analysis of learner records 
  • Has enabled educators to identify learners at risk of attrition and is expected to grow revenue significantly over the next four years.

Aston University has completed a two year knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) with apprentice management specialist Advanced Smart Apprentices, whose head office is in Birmingham. This has resulted in an innovative software platform which has the potential of improving apprenticeship completion rates by identifying students at risk of dropping out after as short as three months into their studies.

Computer scientists from Aston University’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, created a new learner engagement module, ‘Smart Coach’, which offers learner support material as a ‘bolt on’ to Advanced Smart Apprentices existing apprenticeship delivery software.

The Smart Coach module analyses patterns in learner behaviour and identifies areas for closer learner support by combining complex data consolidation and in-depth predictive analytics based on learner records. 

The project team used machine learning to create a prescriptive analytics model, which identifies at risk learners while also indicating possible interventions to mitigate risks and support each student’s learning journey.

The project was led by Dr Felipe Campelo, senior lecturer in computer science at Aston University, whose research focuses on the development of solution frameworks for prescriptive data analytics, connecting data mining, optimisation and multi-criteria decision support. He was joined by Aniko Ekart, professor of artificial intelligence (AI) at Aston University.

Nathan Lloyd, KTP associate for the partnership, gained in-company experience of building and deploying a practical data mining and AI solution. Following the completion of the project, Nathan received a PhD offer from Ontario Tech University in Canada. 

Dr Felipe Campelo, senior lecturer of computer science at Aston University, said: 

“This KTP has been a great way for us to work with a new industrial partner whilst applying our expertise in machine learning and artificial intelligence to problems in education.

“It is very rewarding to see the success of this collaboration.”

Ann Ramsey, vice president of education at Advanced Smart Apprentices, said: 

“This KTP has allowed us to produce a platform which will help improve apprenticeship achievement and retention rates and have positive impacts on future life prospects.

“Over time we envisage this partnership will add significant value to help our business grow in the education market by offering a unique and valuable product.”

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