Understanding student experience in the age of personalised study

Edwards, Chris (2017). Understanding student experience in the age of personalised study. In: ALT Online Winter Conference 2017, 12-13 Dec 2017.

URL: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/online2017/sessions/underst...


Moves in higher education to provide personalised learning for students increase the importance of gaining and maintaining an understanding of the student experience. For some institutions, this increase in complexity may stretch current systems and data structures. The complexity is amplified where multiple start dates are offered to improve the personalisation of study. The Open University, OU, has over the years, continued to develop its Supported Open Learning, SOL, methods and as an institution is now prioritising Personalised Open Learning, POL. This increases the importance of accessible detailed pathway information. We describe the development of one possible approach intended to provide greater understanding of the student experience for staff interpreting progress data.

Another outcome of personalisation is the fragmentation of student cohorts, as individuals each make their own study choices while progressing towards their study goal. A relatively straightforward programme of study can lead to 64 different study routes creating a further challenge for staff in understanding the differing student experiences. We show how this can be represented in a simple data structure that allows powerful queries.

Our approach uses a multi-model database, with graphical capabilities. By creating this structure in the ArangoDB environment it was possible to readily test it with 150,000 records and query it using graphical queries in the native AQL language.

The early response from faculty colleagues is very positive. They appreciate the graphical output and the ability to straightforwardly answer their questions on whether students experience greater success on one study route rather than another. We are therefore continuing to develop this model to support a qualification review for summer 2018.

In our presentation we will describe the challenge and illustrate an approach we are taking: giving examples of the queries we are using and the kinds of data the system outputs.

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