80% of students support use of learning engagement analytics   

Main reason cited in national survey is to improve student support by identifying those who might not seek help themselves.  

A national survey conducted by Solutionpath and Wonkhe has found that 80% of undergraduates support the use of learning engagement analytics at higher education institutions. Almost three-quarters (71%) agreed that engagement data should be used to help universities understand what additional academic support might be needed by individuals.  

Commissioned by Cibyl, the survey, Students’ views of engagement data analytics, polled 496 students across the UK on their views of learning engagement analytics.

three person pointing the silver laptop computer

Photo by John Schnobrich

The findings are timely because we expect further debate over the use of such learning engagement analytics given the government’s challenge to the sector to demonstrate that it can support students in crisis, and the wider discussion of whether universities should have a statutory duty of care towards students. Engaging students in such decisions is important: as well as the ethical and practical considerations related to data security and consent, such engagement can help to ensure the success of adopting or extending the use of analytics. 

For one thing, students surveyed in the poll could clearly see the benefits of gathering and using such data – and gave clear reasons why. Those students who said they were in favour of such analytics said they were keen on improving support systems by identifying students who might not necessarily seek help themselves. Others favoured being able to track their own engagement, using such data to inform their understanding of what is expected of them, as well as to track their own progress.  

On the whole, most students were ‘comfortable’ or ‘somewhat comfortable’ with universities collecting data on the frequency of their engagement in a range of different activities. Levels of comfort was associated with how meaningful the students found such activity in helping them do their best work.  

Students mostly supported the academic support use-case for engagement analytics. Yet it is also clear from the survey results that a lot of students intrinsically link academic progress, engagement, and well-being. Some 66% of those surveyed supported the use of engagement analytics to identify and support students who might be experiencing low well-being or at risk of leaving their course.  

Michelle Craig, Head of Marketing at Solutionpath, says: ‘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.’  

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