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Working in partnership for online student learning support: Evidence of positive impact

Observations and recommendations from Professor Cliff Allan and Professor Liz Thomas, on research into the impact of Studiosity on the student experience, as well as participation and persistence. The reports are cross-institutional studies carried out by Liz Thomas Associates, using 2019 data from 11 UK universities.

After an extraordinary period of shifting wholesale courses and associated student support online
within weeks, Universities are now developing new and longer-term learning and teaching models
for the post COVID-19 world.

In designing new approaches, new pedagogies and new blends, will universities consider and, in some cases accelerate, working in partnership with external providers for dimensions of the student experience to concentrate on what they do best and what other providers can add to enhancing inclusive student support, well-being and student success? Do the complexities of developing new learning models, along with increasing and widening student expectations, require a closer look at how partnerships with specialist third party organisations can offer solutions to some of these demands?

Third parties can bring quick solutions and services to support students, often in ways which may be
slow or too costly to develop in-house. They can offer services which add value to a University’s
student experience and complement a University’s own support services. They can also bring
extensive experience of innovative and fresh ways of student engagement, primarily online and
relevant to the diverse needs of different student groups.

Of course, many such companies will promise great things, so it is important that we understand the effectiveness and impact of third- party innovative services, provided to students as part of a package of student learning support.

Recent research into how one company, Studiosity, working with several UK universities providing
on demand on-line personalised student support, indicates positive impacts on students and is an
example of effective partnering for enhancing student learning support.

The service connects students with academic writing specialists and core skills tutors, who provide
students with online feedback on their writing assignments, and helps them to work through course-
related questions and problems in live chat sessions. These services are available to students 24/7,
365 days of the year. The service is integrated with the University’s subject and wider academic
development activities, rather than being stand-alone.

The impact evaluation found that both the well-being and the success of Studiosity users increased:

“The Studiosity tutors have made me more confident when writing, and have also made me aware of various ways to improve my personal style of writing and communication skills more generally. This improved confidence has improved my wellbeing, as I stress less about essays than before my university provided access to Studiosity.”

In summary, the research findings indicate:

  • The significant majority of students (more than 80%) said that they had learnt ‘a lot’ or ‘a
    reasonable amount’ by using the complementary service, with good evidence that the feedback service is contributing very positively to the development of students’ capacity to be effective learners in higher education, rather than simply supporting them to pass the next assignment.
  • The significant majority of students felt that the service had improved their confidence
    (79%), motivation (69%) and study skills (79%).
  • Studiosity users were more satisfied with their course overall and in relation to their
    assessment and feedback than the average respondents to the NSS survey in England.
  • Users reported significantly better well-being than the student population as a whole,
    bringing them into line with the national population.
  • In the pilot universities the continuation rate for Studiosity users was higher than for non-
    Studiosity users and in three of the six institutions this was a significant difference (p<0.001).
  • Similarly, progression data was significantly better for Studiosity users than non-users at
    three of the six institutions; at these universities the differences were ten, thirteen and
    fourteen percentage points better than for non-Studiosity users.

“Amazing service. Really targeted feedback meant that I felt able to improve my own work and do better. This felt really empowering and was incredibly motivating."

These findings clearly suggest that this third party service is developing the capacity of users to be effective independent learners, who are more satisfied with their University’s learning experience, and who have much higher levels of well-being than the general student population.

Moreover, it is making a positive contribution to improving student continuation and progression in the user Universities, which is great for student success and clearly a good return, in terms of retained student tuition fees, on the Universities’ investment in buying-in the service.

The demonstrable benefits of Studiosity’s complementary student support services which this research has highlighted, amplifies the case for greater consideration of using external services where they can add genuine value, complement and enhance existing or even re- purposed in-house student and learning support. If developed in true partnership such services can become an integrated and seamless part of the on-line offer to students.

Moreover, such companies bring expertise and systems which can transform a shift to the ‘digital campus’ and the blended offer which is rapidly becoming the norm.

Universities don’t have to develop and deliver in-house every facet of the student experience, especially at a time when learning and student support re-design is having to move forward rapidly and when student expectations of the new on-line offer are rising. Partnerships with proven and expert commercial organisations which have academic integrity can offer productive solutions to Universities and enhanced learning experiences to students.

Professor Liz Thomas is an independent researcher and consultant, and Professor of Higher Education at Edge Hill University

Professor Cliff Allan is a former Vice-Chancellor and is a member of the Academic Advisory Board of Studiosity

Professor Allan recently hosted our UK Student helpseeking 2019 vs 2020 webinar, alongside Professor Liz Thomas who shared key highlights from her recent independent cross institutional study on student helpseeking outcomes. Professors Allan and Thomas were also joined by a special guest panel. Watch the full webinar video on our Vimeo channel. 


About Studiosity

Studiosity is personalised study help, anytime, anywhere. We partner with institutions to extend their core academic skills support online with timely, after-hours help for all their students, at scale - regardless of their background, study mode or location. 

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