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“Continuous improvement” the driver as University of Buckingham appoints Explorance to programme evaluations brief

The University of Buckingham, the oldest private university in England and pioneer of the two-year accelerated degree, has awarded Explorance a contract to help deliver its programme evaluations following a competitive tender.

As part of an institutional review of quality and compliance, the University identified an opportunity to “rethink how we do evaluation processes” and sought a different approach. “We previously used paper-based evaluations, but that was no longer an option with the enforced move to online learning, and we wanted a system that would support engagement with quality and compliance processes and help foster a university-wide culture of continuous improvement,” explained University Assistant Registrar (Academic Compliance) Anita Wise.

Having invited three organisations to respond to the tender, Explorance was selected by a university working group which determined that its Blue course evaluation software was “the best fit” for programme evaluations. Anita said: “I first became aware of Blue when I attended a webinar on student surveys, led by students, whose message was basically ‘stop surveying us so much and tell us what you do with the information’. Explorance’s response showed how they would address that. With Blue, students get their own dashboard that shows surveys all in one place, they can start and stop these surveys at their own pace, and we thought that would really appeal. There is also a dashboard for Faculty administrators and academics to track engagement and results for programmes. It is really user-friendly and will be integrated with Moodle, our virtual learning environment.”

Anita added that whilst Faculties will continue to run module evaluations for the short-term, the institution planned to “grow” Explorance Blue to use it for all surveys across the University and Students’ Union, with exit surveys to follow next. “The programme survey itself reflects the National Student Survey (NSS),” she revealed. “We are surveying students four times in their two-year degrees, beginning in the spring and autumn terms of their first year using Blue which give us an idea of how they may respond to the NSS and allow us time to make changes as needed. Then in the spring term of their second year they will complete the NSS followed by an exit survey in their final term using Blue. So, four trigger points, three involving Blue.”

She also outlined how Explorance Blue would deliver “a better set of data for decision-makers” from evaluations, thus informing progress against related KPIs in the University strategy. “We hope our work with Explorance will lead to tangible change, in terms of using data from Blue and give us the necessary longitudinal analysis to make sustainable future-proof decisions,” Anita added. “We have designed a wider continuous improvement cycle, with the aim of results from Blue being shared within two weeks to both the students, academics and professional services staff. School assessment, learning and teaching committees will take these results and create a quality improvement plan (QIP), which will then flow into the Faculty boards to review the collective QIPs looking at common ground for development across the Faculty, and publishing a ‘you said/we did’ update to students.”

The Faculty QIPs will in turn, be reviewed at the University assessment, learning and teaching committee to consider institutional-wide improvements.

John Atherton, General Manager – Europe and Africa, at Explorance, added: “We are absolutely delighted to be working with the University of Buckingham during a time of strategic change and shift to a culture of continuous improvement for the institution. It is empowering, from our perspective, to be able to provide the University with the data to drive decision-making and therefore make a real difference.”

In the UK, Explorance now supplies its Blue or Bluepulse software to 19 universities: Aberdeen, Birkbeck – University of London, Brighton, Bristol, Buckingham, Cardiff, Coventry, Durham, Glasgow Caledonian, Kingston, Leeds, Liverpool John Moores, Loughborough, Nottingham Trent, Northumbria, Sheffield, Strathclyde, Worcester and the University of Law.

Explorance is on the APUC multi-supplier UK education sector framework for the supply of student module evaluation systems and associated services to HE and FE institutions of Scotland. The framework agreement is also open to member institutions within the UK universities procurement consortia meaning they too can use the framework and have the option to appoint Explorance directly as the ranked number one supplier via APUC.=

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