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National survey finds 80% of students support the use of learning engagement analytics

Citing main reason is to improve student support by identifying students who might not necessarily seek help themselves.

A national survey has found that 80% of undergraduate students support the use of learning engagement analytics at higher education institutions. With almost three quarters (71%) of students agreeing that engagement data should be used to help universities understand what additional academic support individuals might need.

The Solutionpath and Wonkhe survey commissioned by Cibyl asked a poll of 496 students across the UK their views of learning engagement analytics.

Students in favour of learning engagement analytics explained their answer by citing the prospect of improving student support by identifying students who might not necessarily seek help themselves. Others liked the idea of being able to track their own engagement and use the data to inform their understanding of what is expected and track their progress. Generally, most students were comfortable or somewhat comfortable with universities collecting data on the frequency of their engagement in the range of different activities, but the degree of comfort was associated with how meaningful they found them to help them do their best work.

Although students were mostly supportive of the academic support use-case for engagement analytics, it is also clear that for a lot of students’ academic progress, engagement, and wellbeing are intrinsically linked; 66% supported the use of engagement analytics to identify and support students who might be experiencing low wellbeing or at risk of leaving their course.

Michelle Craig, Head of Marketing at Solutionpath, said:

“Students generate a lot of data as they go about their daily lives at university, logging into university online platforms, engaging with learning resources, tapping into campus buildings, or signing up for meetings and activities. Learning engagement analytics, at its most straightforward, seeks patterns in that data to better understand students identify students at potential ‘risk’ of not progressing or withdrawal, and adjust provision and support accordingly.

“While the principle is very straightforward the practice of implementing learning engagement analytics requires careful thought. Students’ engagement can indicate lots of things: interest and motivation in their course, preferences for one mode of learning or type of learning resource over another, or patterns in personal wellbeing or life challenges that are shaping their capacity to engage.  Engagement data used in this way is a powerful tool to identify potential risk to progression or even withdrawal and initiate a proactive conversation that offers support and guidance for the student.

“There is more complexity to effective use of engagement data for analytics than we were able to cover in one survey. But it is clear that students grasp the principle and are broadly supportive of it, if it helps them to progress and improve the quality of their experience.”

In the months ahead, the industry is expecting the conversation about the uses of learning engagement analytics to ramp up as the sector grapples with the challenge from government to demonstrate that it can support students in crisis following a debate over whether universities should have a statutory duty of care towards students.

Universities considering whether to adopt, or extend their use of, engagement analytics are being urged to open up a conversation with their student body about it – partly for obvious ethical and practical reasons around data security and consent – but also to give the strategy and the student the best chance of success.

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