New system ‘aces’ giving students a helping hand
28 April 2022
#KiaAngitu. An innovative system that identifies and contacts students who may need extra support has become an award-winning initiative at the University of Canterbury.
The Analytics for Course Engagement (ACE) system was launched in January 2020 with the goal of making sure students who are struggling will get the support they need. While initially only targeting first-year students, ACE has now expanded to include all undergraduates.
The monitoring system combines technology with proactive outreach to identify and contact undergraduate students who may be at risk of disengaging from their studies.
Last August, ACE, which is part of the University of Canterbury’s Student Success Programme, Kia Angitu, won the 2021 CAUDIT (Council of Australasian University Directors of Information Technology) award for Improving Student Success. ACE was also selected as a finalist in the 2021 New Zealand Open Source Awards.
University academics and other staff contributed their expertise to its development. Staff and students provide ongoing input to ensure the continuous improvement of the system.
Undergraduate students have access to a personalised dashboard to view how their engagement levels are tracking compared with their peers. A grant from the TEC in 2021 allowed for the student dashboard to be significantly enhanced. Teacher-facing dashboards were also developed as part of the TEC grant to provide staff more information and insights on the online engagement levels in their courses.
UC Tumu Tuarua Akoranga | Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Academic Professor Catherine Moran says communication with each student that ACE identifies as being at-risk happens in a series of stages.
When a student is identified, they first receive a text message and that is then followed by university staff contacting them to help them to get back on track.
“ACE allows the University of Canterbury to proactively identify when students begin to disengage, make contact with them early on, and ensure they have the support to get on the right path to success,” Professor Moran says.
Data from Term 1, 2022 shows more than 1400 students were contacted via the ACE system. More than half of those students re-engaged following the first text communication. Around 2% of those students picked up by ACE were escalated to student support teams, and fewer than 1% required a follow-up with an emergency contact.
Student feedback on ACE has been positive, with many students saying the ACE dashboard has helped them to determine whether they need to improve their engagement with course materials.
“I can use ACE to see the difference between me and my classmates, and I can make an effort to do something for a better result. So ACE is kind of an encouragement tool,” says Kayla Wu, a University of Canterbury student.
Professor Moran says the University is delighted the ACE system was recognised with a CAUDIT award.
“We’re really proud to have introduced this innovation into the student success space and to help our students to adapt to tertiary study and university life in such an effective way.”
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