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Increasing Student Engagement by Providing Personalised Student Messages at Scale Using Data Analytics

Thursday 4 July: Conference day two, 11:00am – 11:30am parallel session



Room 3 – 303-G15 Sem



Dr Mark Mcconnell (research lead)
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Dr Steve Leichtweis (presenter)
University of Auckland, New Zealand



With large classes in many university courses, maintaining and creating opportunities for genuine engagement between teachers and students is increasingly difficult, which in turn is affecting student engagement and performance. Research is beginning to show the potential of data-informed ‘nudges’, either by SMS or email. Correlations have been found between the use of data-informed nudges and improved academic performance in relation to specific student groups offered targeted help (Goh, Seet and Chen, 2012) and vulnerable first year students (Corrigan, Smeaton, Glynn and Smyth, 2015).


The Initiative

This initiative used OnTask, an open source software tool, which gathers data about students’ activities throughout a course and allows teachers to design personalized and scalable feedback with suggestions about students’ learning strategies. The OnTask tool was trialled in a second year class of 95 student. Two personalised emails were sent with information, suggestions and advice created on the basis of data sourced and analysed from the LMS and from an online in-class quiz. This trial has informed a more extensive use of OnTask during 2019 in a first year course of 800-1,000 students.



In the initial trial, an evaluative questionnaire at the end of the course was used to assess the impact of student motivation and sense of connection with the teacher, and also general student perceptions of the personalised messages.


Evidence of Effectiveness

The most significant impact of the two personalised messages appeared to be in relation to student perception and appreciation of the teacher’s interest in their academic success, and the teacher’s efforts to increase the chances of their success. In addition, students indicated increased motivation. The general student evaluation for the course also showed a significant increase in student satisfaction for both the course and the teacher.


Presentation topic

Students – Technology

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