Professor Neil Morris, Digital Education Consultant, discusses what you need for a successful student engagement analytics  strategy

Data is at the heart of effective digital transformation, and for most universities collating data isn’t the issue. It is the ability to visualise that data in any meaningful way.

Many organisations are tackling their data strategy as part of their digital transformation approach and often find this a significant challenge due to the complexity, architecture and interconnectedness of their systems and processes.

The complexity continues with the need to deliver against levelling up, participation agendas, and quality and outcome initiatives, which require universities to be connected across all functions; where academics are common with professional staff, where instructional designers are in tune with IT systems delivery, and where decision making is supported through just in time insights.

Data, and specifically, engagement data, offers this common language with relevance with the student and throughout the university eco-system, where ‘engagement’ reflects both the metrics of success and the means to mobilise against an issue.

In the coming years, student engagement analytics will play a role in every meaningful digital transformational project across our institutions, whether in support of student outreach initiatives in aiding in progression and well-being, in understanding how successful students participate at module, programme and school, or in helping teams in gaining the insights to drive operational plans and inform research.

We are already seeing a number of universities utilising student engagement tools, such as Solutionpath’s StREAM, which enable institutions to have a centralised dashboard to keep a record of every student’s engagement, performance, and progress. This kind of technology is integral to a successful engagement analytics strategy, but what are the crucial steps, before and after the tech implementation?

Here are what I believe to be the key elements needed for success.

Having a vision is paramount for effective student engagement

It’s paramount that you have a clear vision for how student engagement analytics will support the student education journey. As well as a focused strategy for its deployment, with defined and measurable outcomes and a pathway to deliver transformational change. Importantly, there must be a clear rationale for using engagement analytics and the intended and improved outcomes when the project has been delivered.

In relation to the wider data strategy, it is crucial that all stakeholders truly understand the roadmap, the objectives, purpose, timescales for change, the steps to be undertaken, and their role in supporting change. By providing a phased technology roadmap, you will be able to set a clear journey for deployment from the collection, storage and management of your data in collaboration with IT, through to the movement of the data between systems and long-term vision for managing the data.

Also, having a transparent and ethical position on data is key. Create a clear policy position and code of practice on the use of data for learning analytics and share it widely, setting out how and when data will be collected, stored, used and shared, and by whom.

Have buy-in to guarantee long-term success

Having established the vision and strategy, it is essential to obtain cultural buy-in to guarantee long-term success with staff and students. Launching a high-profile campaign to explain the strategy, purpose, outcomes, pedagogic and engagement value of the data, tools training, and continuous professional development for all users. Encouraging an open and transparent coworking with your student population throughout the process of defining your vision, strategy, policy and deployment. With open discussion about the implications of data collection, storage, and usage.

It is evident from the past two years that new digital technologies and their adoption have profound implications for how we live as a society, how we feel about privacy and ethics, and how we explore and interact with culture.

As we embrace digital transformation in our institutions, we need to focus our time and resources on these critical issues and recognise and manage the limitations of digital technologies, particularly ensuring that students and staff have equitable access to the required technologies and are supported to get best use out of it.


Written by Professor Neil Morris, Digital Education Consultant


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