Edinburgh’s Telford College boosts attendance monitoring

Supporting learner achievement with analytics technologies

Published on 21-Jul-2011

Validated on 08 Jan 2013

"With help from Barrachd and IBM, we’ve developed a solution that could deliver compelling advantages to almost any further education institution. We’re keen to develop it further in partnership with other like-minded organisations and really maximise the benefits for our own learners and staff." - Lisa Dawson, IS Manager at Edinburgh’s Telford College

Customer:
Edinburgh’s Telford College

Industry:
Education

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Solution:
BA - Business Intelligence, Smarter Planet

IBM Business Partner:
Barrachd

Overview

Edinburgh’s Telford College provides further education and training for 20,000 learners of all ages, primarily focusing on vocational courses and professional development. Based in Edinburgh, the College has 600 staff and works in partnership with a wide range of local, national and international organisations to offer an enhanced learning experience.

Business need:
Edinburgh’s Telford College wanted to find a way to track learner attendance more effectively. Not only would this help with administrative processes such as the allocation of bursaries; it would also form the basis of a new predictive analytics solution that aims to boost retention rates by identifying learners who are at risk of dropping out.

Solution:
The team worked with Barrachd, an IBM Business Partner, to design and deploy a solution that interacts with the College’s student records system and provides managers and lecturers with visual dashboards and personal timetables that track attendance and activities. This solution will soon be made available to all learners through a mobile application. Based on IBM® Cognos® Business Intelligence, the solution also analyses demographics, course popularity and other factors that affect learner retention. A retention model will be piloted within the 2011-12 academic session.

Benefits:
Provides a basis for predictive analysis of learners who are at risk of dropping out, and prompting staff to intervene before it is too late. Highlights the importance of attendance to staff and learners, leading to improved attendance rates and aiding more efficient management of funding allocations such as bursaries and EMA. Increased register completion rate, providing more accurate and complete data for analysis. Improved financial management by ensuring that each learner receives appropriate bursaries. Simplifies reporting to external organisations such as the UK Borders Agency.

Case Study

Edinburgh’s Telford College provides further education and training for 20,000 learners of all ages, primarily focusing on vocational courses and professional development. Based in Edinburgh, the College has 600 staff and works in partnership with a wide range of local, national and international organisations to offer an enhanced learning experience.

“We aim to give our learners the best possible education to support their personal and professional development,” says Lisa Dawson, IS Manager at Edinburgh’s Telford College. “Many of our learners are aged between 16-24. They come to our College to prepare themselves for employment or as a stepping stone to University.”

The College began thinking about new ways to keep learners on track, and recognised that by improving its ability to monitor attendance, it could gain significant insight into learners’ engagement with their courses.

“Attendance is important for many reasons,” explains Lisa . “First and foremost, if a learner isn’t attending many of their classes, they aren’t getting the full value of the course. Second, waning attendance is often an indicator that something is wrong – perhaps the learner isn’t completely happy with the college experience, or external factors are making it difficult for them to attend. Third, there’s a financial element: government bursaries and Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) can only be awarded to learners who achieve certain attendance levels – and these bursaries are a vital part of many learners’ ability to finance their studies.

“The College realised that if we could get a really good grasp of our attendance data and analyse it effectively, we would be able to identify patterns and help learners address these issues before they get out of hand. With our existing systems, whilst we could analyse the data, we struggled to present it in a way that was easy for staff and learners to understand. We wanted to introduce a tool that would help our learning development tutors identify and help learners before they drop out.”

Edinburgh’s Telford College has a long relationship with IBM as a hardware partner, and the IT team decided to ask for advice on how best to improve its attendance analysis capabilities. IBM recommended working with Barrachd, an IBM Business Partner with considerable experience in delivering business analytics and performance management solutions for organisations of all kinds, and building a solution on IBM Cognos Business Intelligence software.

“We had some experience of IBM Cognos solutions, but we had never deployed them in a major way,” adds Lisa . “However, when the team from Barrachd showed us what the latest version of IBM Cognos Business Intelligence could do, we definitely saw the potential. Working with a team of experienced consultants really made the difference in this project: there were many occasions when Barrachd really went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure we got the solution we needed.”

The new solution gathers attendance data from the registers that lecturers take at the start of each class, and integrates it with course-related information from our student records system (Capita’s UNIT-e). IBM Cognos Business Intelligence then analyses this data against predefined limits, triggering notifications whenever a learners’ attendance falls below a given threshold. This prompts the College’s Learning Development Tutors to intervene and find out if there is any way to help the learner improve their attendance.

“Another capability that we’ve recently developed in IBM Cognos Business Intelligence is a personal timetable,” says Lisa. This will be available to all of our learners for the 2011-12 academic session. It shows each learner the activities they need to attend in the coming days. Future activities are displayed in black; activities they have attended are in green, and those that they have missed are marked in red. They can easily see whether they’re in danger of missing their bursary thresholds, and if there’s a mistake – for example, if a lecturer has accidentally missed them on the register – they can make sure it is corrected quickly. We’re also going to launch an SMS alerts service to warn them if they are in danger of missing their attendance targets.”

The first release of the attendance analytics solution has been live for approximately nine months, and the College has already seen impressive results. Creating a visual dashboard gives managers a greater awareness of their daily and year-to-date register completion rates. Dashboards provide drill-down functionality, making it easy for problem areas to be identified and addressed. Gathering managers together for a short session each morning and displaying progress has encouraged the group to boost the register completion rate significantly.

“With its drill-down capabilities, this visual tool has given staff an easier way to identify problems, and clearer cues for intervention,” says Lisa. “This has contributed to a significant increase in attendance across the College.”

As well as its benefits for staff and learners, the solution is being developed to help the College meet its obligations in terms of external reporting. For example, it needs to report to the UK Borders Agency to ensure that the terms of overseas learners’ visas are being fulfilled. It also needs to report to central government on bursary allocation. IBM Cognos Business Intelligence can automate the generation of these reports, saving significant workload for College staff. This new suite of reports will commence full rollout during the 2011-12 academic year.

Looking to the future

“Attendance is really just the beginning,” says Lisa. “We have great plans for the IBM Cognos solution, especially in terms of learner retention rates. By combining the attendance data with other information – such as demographics, what their funding situation is, how popular their courses are and so on – we’ll be able to build a model that helps us predict which learners are more likely to drop out. This will give us an even better basis for intervention, and will also help us understand how to tailor our courses and our organisation to provide an even more rewarding experience for learners – particularly those who need extra support.”

The success of the solution has also led the College to consider offering it as a service for other further education institutions.

“With help from Barrachd and IBM, we’ve developed a solution that could deliver compelling advantages to almost any further education institution,” concludes Lisa . “We’re keen to develop it further in partnership with other like-minded organisations and really maximise the benefits for our own learners and staff.”

About Barrachd

Barrachd is one of the UK’s leading providers of business analytics solutions that provide real insight into clients’ businesses and enable them to plan more effectively for the future. The company focuses on IBM Cognos and SPSS solutions, and also has expertise in IBM hardware installations – enabling it to provide an end-to-end service.

About IBM Business Analytics

IBM Business Analytics software delivers actionable insights decision-makers need to achieve better business performance. IBM offers a comprehensive, unified portfolio of business intelligence, predictive and advanced analytics, financial performance and strategy management, governance, risk and compliance and analytic applications.

With IBM software, companies can spot trends, patterns and anomalies, compare “what if” scenarios, predict potential threats and opportunities, identify and manage key business risks and plan, budget and forecast resources. With these deep analytic capabilities our customers around the world can better understand, anticipate and shape business outcomes.

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
Cognos Business Intelligence

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2011. IBM United Kingdom Limited, PO Box 41, North Harbour, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO6 3AU. Produced in the United Kingdom, July 2011. All Rights Reserved. IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com and Cognos are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. A current list of other IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at: ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. IBM and Barrachd are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor Barrachd makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference to an IBM product, program or service is not intended to imply that only IBM’s product, program or service may be used. Any functionally equivalent product, program or service may be used instead. All customer examples cited represent how some customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. IBM hardware products are manufactured from new parts, or new and used parts. In some cases, the hardware product may not be new and may have been previously installed. Regardless, IBM warranty terms apply. This publication is for general guidance only. Photographs may show design models.