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Supporting student nurses through engagement analytics


The University of Worcester’s Jenny Pinfield and Elaine Swift, discuss how they are supporting the wellbeing of pre-registration nursing, nursing associate and midwifery students, through student engagement analytics.

With record numbers of new nursing students attending university, and an increased focus on a digital learning landscape due to the pandemic, we are seeing pressure that could potentially impact nursing course retention. According to a Health Education England survey, during the first Covid-19 wave, nursing students felt overwhelmed with their academic studies and stressed by the situation they found themselves in. Many were doubting their clinical ability and were particularly concerned about catching up with their clinical skills.

In the survey, 69% of students stated that online delivery enabled them to progress with their studies, however only 43% agreed that online learning fulfilled the need for face-to-face contact, and 72% agreed that they struggled to complete the learning outcomes in the context of online learning.

Supporting the next generation of nursing

At the University of Worcester there are currently more than 1,200 students studying across the University’s Nursing, Midwifery and Nursing Associate programmes. In July 2020, the University was granted the largest allocation of additional health training places in the country, with an extra 240 places for nursing and 70 places for midwifery. 

Supporting this next generation of nursing staff is therefore paramount for retention and meeting the needs of the workforce in the years ahead. Like so many universities, Worcester was faced with a number of new challenges brought on by Covid-19. “During the pandemic, we had been putting strategies in place to increase student support – such as increased communication, particularly when students had been out on placement,” explained Jenny Pinfield, Principal Lecturer in Nursing at the University of Worcester.

“Covid and various challenges of online learning, emergency standards and deferred placements, have all impacted nursing education in recent years,” she added. 

Jenny believes that one way to help get universities back to a good place post-Covid is having a greater insight into their student’s engagement. “As an institution we were looking into the benefits of learner analytics pre pandemic. Nursing and midwifery is a large school at Worcester, and we have a strong focus on supporting our students in terms of their progression. When Covid came along, we decided now was the right time to invest.”

“Engagement analytics give us a real opportunity to meet two needs; it helps us support our large courses, such as nursing and midwifery, it also supports nursing students moving into the NHS, who we can all agree are a vital lifeline for us all,” added Elaine Swift, Head of Digital Learning and Teaching at University of Worcester.

Digitally enabled support 

As part of the University’s teaching and learning strategy, Worcester is striving to build a dynamic and supportive learning environment for staff and for students that is research inspired and digitally enabled.

Earlier this year, the University of Worcester partnered with student engagement analytics software provider Solutionpath, to support the wellbeing of its pre-registration Nursing, Nursing Associate and Midwifery students.

Solutionpath’s StREAM platform translates complex transactional data into a simple visualisation of student engagement and provides early identification of students potentially at risk of withdrawal and aids the management and reporting of targeted interventions. 

“StREAM is another vital tool in our toolkit – it can help us offer that crucial support to students and help us recognise if there are any issues and enable us to act swiftly,” explained Elaine.

“We want to support students to ethically engage with their own learner data and to use that in conjunction with our staff. Initial student feedback has been positive, and staff have found the system very easy to navigate.”

The platform uses a unique algorithm to collate student data that represents engagement in their academic learning and creates a universal measure of engagement – providing each student with an engagement score. 

Visualising engagement 

The University of Worcester can now easily visualise engagement at a cohort, course, module, or individual level and activate intervention in a near real time, allowing them to be more personalised, proactive, and supportive.

Jenny concludes: “Student engagement analytics makes it easier to have meaningful conversations, empower students to better understand their own learning journey and inform tutors to get the right support, to the right student at the right time.”

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