Meet one of UNESCO ICT in Education Prize finalists: OUAnalyse from UK

The Open University Analyse (OUAnalyse) from the UK was selected as a finalist of the 2020 UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for the Use of ICT in Education. In this article, Dr Christothea Herodotou, Associate Professor from Institute of Educational Technology and Dr Martin Hlosta, Research Fellow from Knowledge Media Institute, tell us more about the OUAnalyse project, explain the impact that the project has achieved, share ethical concerns related to the use of students’ data,  and introduce their plans for the future.

OUAnalyse and its impact

The Open University Analyse (OUAnalyse) is an early alert indicators system that uses machine learning to generate predictions of students who are at risk of not submitting their next assignment and failing their studies. Student predictions are updated every week and are available via a dashboard to all university teachers, visualising student data in user-friendly graphs. The teachers use the dashboard and then proactively engage with their students to provide them with timely support that can help to "save" them before they fail.

Dr Christothea Herodotou, Associate Professor and Evaluation Lead of OUAnalyse, highlighted, “A strong body of evidence, impacting 1,222 teachers and 23,180 students in 231 courses, has shown that the use of OUAnalyse by online teachers can lead to better student performance, contribute to teachers' professional development and capacity of supporting students at risk, especially at a distance, where clues from face-to-face interaction with students are absent.”

Ensure an ethical approach for the use of OUAnalyse

A major ethical concern when started developing OUAnalyse was the students’ consent to using their data and support their learning. To address this challenge, a university-wide policy informing and consenting students on study registration about how their data are used to improve performance was devised and implemented, together with the first world learning analytics policy.

Support to teachers and learners during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Open University (OU) is a world leader in distance learning and teaching. It is unique in the Higher Education Institutes in UK, as it made Higher Education accessible to learners for whom campus-based education is not possible. The pandemic saw the University attracting more and younger students for whom campus-based education was not an option anymore.

Dr. Herodotou pointed out, “during this period, we intensified our efforts to make more teachers aware of the tool and motivate its use, while at the same time we started exploring ways new student data could feed into the model and improve its accuracy such as students’ tuition attendance.”

Eyes on the future

OUA is now available to all teaching staff at the Open University of UK as business as usual. Looking ahead, Dr Martin Hlosta, Research Fellow and Technical Lead of OUA, explains: “we are exploring ways to give students direct access to their data that can complement the teachers’ effort to support students at risk. At the same time, we are exploring how OUAnalyse can help to reduce the awarding gap of ethnic minority students or students coming from low socio-economic status students. Our recent pilot showed positive impact on reducing these gaps and promoting educational opportunity and social justice.”

For more information on OUAnalyse: