Imagine sitting in a large lecture theatre with 400 other students, your lecturer at the front of the room not knowing who you are, and a sense of doubt about what you are doing there. Now, imagine receiving a personalised email from that lecturer who you thought did not care, saying that they noticed that you have been attending class and contributing to online discussions, but that you might need extra assistance with certain topics in yesterday’s mid-term assessment and suggests an upcoming group catch-up session. At your next tutorial, your tutor greets you by name and comments on how well you did in the last online activity.
“It shows how helpful the SRES is in allowing us to give the kind of personalised attention to students that time wouldn’t otherwise allow.”
Reconnecting and re-engaging with large student cohorts like this is now a reality at the University of Sydney thanks to a unique learning analytics platform, the Student Relationship Engagement System (SRES). It all started as an unfunded in-house development by two academics who were frustrated at not being able to provide pedagogical and pastoral care to their large classes. Fast forward five years, and the SRES is now used in over 100 courses and reaches over 20,000 students at Sydney. Thanks to the confidence boost provided by being shortlisted for the 2016 Reimagine Education awards, since the conference in December 2016 two other Australian universities are piloting the SRES, and two more are coming online next semester.
But why are faculty scrambling for something like this?
“The SRES has allowed me to create a personalised learning environment whereby my students receive feedback quickly and easily.”
The SRES is unlike any other learning analytics platform. It puts faculty in control of the academic engagement and performance data that they consider meaningful and important in their unique learning and teaching context. Because the SRES is built to be fully customisable, academics have surprised us with the creative ways in which they collect and use these data. Many use it to capture attendance, using the SRES web app and a mobile/tablet’s camera to scan student cards, or an electronic roll within the SRES.
When interacting with students in class, a tutor can bring up their engagement and success data from within the SRES web app and use that to inform conversation. Many also use it for grading clinical assessments or in-class presentations by building a rubric and comment fields in the SRES web app. Some use the visualisation features to build customised dashboards of class performance that they can then share with tutors and students. Most use the messaging feature to personalise and target pastoral and pedagogical support for select groups of students. Many set up SRES ‘web portals’ to provide personalised feedback and support in the form of a web page that can be embedded in the LMS. Some are even experimenting with the predictive analytics engine powered by machine learning.
From speaking with academics who use the SRES, we think that this approach, as simple as it is, might be one answer to what they have been looking for in learning analytics: a platform that is teacher-driven and student-focussed, allowing them to be connect meaningfully with more students at scale. Find out more about how the SRES works, and how you can get involved.