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Case study: Plymouth Marjon University


Plymouth Marjon University, UK


Plymouth Marjon University (formerly the University of St Mark and St John) was founded in 1838 on the beliefs of The Reverend Derwent Coleridge, son of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Its first principal was that its primary purpose would be to widen the educational horizons of its students. Awarded university status in 2013, Plymouth Marjon has over 70 taught programmes of study with two faculties: Education, Enterprise & Culture, and Sport, Health & Wellbeing. The university was rated no. 1 in England for student satisfaction in The Complete University Guide 2021.

Plymouth Marjon University has just won a £250,000 cash boost - Plymouth  Live

Why Studiosity?

The University first introduced Studiosity in 2018, providing students with on-demand access to Writing Feedback and Connect Live. Following a successful pilot, Plymouth Marjon then entered into a three year partnership.

In February 2024, the University adopted Studiosity+ - a new AI learning technology to give its students formative feedback on their written work within minutes (including the use of critical thinking skills) as well as enhanced reporting, in a further enhancement to its well-established 24/7 service. 

Interview with Kerry Kellaway, Head of Library at Plymouth Marjon and project manager for Studiosity.

Kerry KellawayClaire Stevens, the Head of Library at the time chose to work with Studiosity, and the need for Studiosity was absolutely clear. We are one of two Universities in Plymouth, and we have a lot of local students, a lot of mature students, and a lot of students from disadvantaged backgrounds who might not necessarily come to university with the required skills. They may be lacking in things like academic writing because they have not been given the opportunity to exercise these skills before. Claire decided that Studiosity would offer a great way of levelling that playing field as it provided students with much needed support. The fact that it offers support out-of-hours and is accessible whenever the student needs help reflects our own values and the Marjon ethos - we pride ourselves on creating a community and Studiosity is one of the tools that enables us to say to students that Marjon is here for you at any point in the day. You get 24 hour, seven days a week support with your writing, with your assignments, so even if you can't see someone physically on campus, you can connect with them through Connect Live or you can submit your work and get instant feedback. 

"Studiosity has definitely played a part in improving our student retention and progression outcomes at Plymouth Marjon, alongside the services that we offer internally. We’re proud to offer a 24/7 student support service to all of our students, not just on-site students but also partnership students as well from across the country, and that's all through Studiosity.”

"It complements our on-site study skills services. In fact, my first role at Plymouth Marjon was as a Study Skills Librarian and very often I would advise students to run an essay through Studiosity, then meet with me to look at the feedback together and then formulate a plan based on that feedback to put into action. 

"For us, it's a community tool, but it's also an empowerment tool. It's a message to students that they don't need somebody to tell them what to do, but what they might need is somebody to have a look at their work, provide a confidence boost that they’re moving in the right direction, give a few pointers on where the piece of work needs to be, and that really reflects our values -  it’s a case of the old parable: if you teach man to fish... it's that kind of thing. 

"Studiosity have been great, absolutely brilliant. Overwhelmingly, our feedback is positive for using Studiosity, our students love it, so much so that after the first year of offering the service to allow five submissions per student, we upped the limit to 10 per academic year and entered a three year agreement. It’s costly but we couldn’t be without it, especially in the current pandemic*. In terms of confidence, it's another proactive way of capturing the students who might otherwise fall through the net. We have a lot of students with mental health conditions and specific learning difficulties who may not feel like they're up to scratch for university and might be suffering with imposter syndrome. They may not necessarily want to come in and speak to Marjon staff face-to-face, so they appreciate that anonymous support can help them know that they’re going in the right direction. 

"We see many cases of students experiencing imposter syndrome because we've got such a big population of mature students and students who are also parents who have worked up the courage to go back into education after a very long gap. They start their first term, go to a couple of lectures and then they'll visit the study skills team, often in tears, saying they want to quit their studies but were advised to see us before they took their final decision. In my experience of being a study skills librarian, it’s incredibly positive that it's not  just me telling students that they have what it takes to succeed, we also have Studiosity to offer additional reassurance." 

*Since this interview in 2021, Kerry Kellaway kindly commented on a news story, released 2 April 2024 about the University adding AI-powered Studiosity+ to its student support service. With a simplified pricing model, it has  enabled a significant increase in student support interactions across the entire Plymouth Marjon student cohort:

“Studiosity+ shows students they are in complete control of what they have invested in. It is a visible indicator of what their tuition fees go towards and, with up to 100 submissions per student, proves just how valued it is, including usage for iterative learning. It is also excellent value for money for us as a university and has been very well received by students and academics alike."

“Studiosity is somewhat responsible for improving the gap between continuation and dropout, especially in these COVID times. It's been absolutely essential to offering that out-of-hours support, it's there for students to use whenever they need it. Studiosity has definitely played a part in improving our student retention and progression outcomes at Plymouth Marjon, alongside the services that we offer internally. We’re proud to offer a 24/7 student support service to all of our students, not just on-site students but also partnership students as well from across the country, and that's all through Studiosity. 

"One-to-one support improves a student’s confidence and I feel this is one of the outcomes of offering Studiosity which is just as important as longer term goals. I genuinely think increased proficiency and the positive effect on a student’s confidence is one of the major outcomes of using Studiosity. 

"We see Studiosity as a pedagogical tool here,  not just an ad hoc service. Many of our lecturers are actively prescribing Studiosity for assessments, as well as pointing students toward our Study Skills team, our lecturers are advising students to use Studiosity for the right kind of feedback for how to improve. My hope is that this also relieves a bit of the workload burden from them as well.

"We use it all the time and it is a name that is very well known around the campus. We love it."

Key Performance Measures
The overall student satisfaction rate across all Writing Feedback and Connect Live sessions delivered since 2018 has been 94.8%. 73.5% of sessions have been rated ‘Extremely Satisfied’ and less than 2% have been rated dissatisfied. Over this time, the average Writing Feedback document return time has been 7 hours, well below the 24 hours advertised.
In March 2024: 
Week 7 was the go-live date for Studioisty+. The level of support received by students has increased significantly: comparing weeks 7-13 in 2023 to 2024, there has been a 235% increase in use, plus a 60% increase in students getting support. 
Blue - 2023
Lime - 2024
PMJ interactions
Read the news story blog here

What do students say?


"Good feedback to help develop my critical writing."
"Really thorough and kind comments that made me feel like my hard work had paid off! It felt very personal which was nice.”

“Whilst the overall feedback is most helpful, the more detailed grammatical feedback has been invaluable for the last two submissions I have made to Studiosity. The fantastic turnaround time is massively appreciated too because it affords sufficient time to review and amend work before final submission - thank you!”

“I felt this was a massive help as I struggle a lot with my grammar, this should hopefully help me out in my upcoming essays”

"Great feedback again, I am really impressed with the more personal comments you have been providing. It is a great confidence boost.”

"Thank you so much for the feedback, Katie! Your comments and suggestions have really made a positive difference to how my essay reads. You have been an academic life-saver! I cannot thank you enough!”

“After reading through this essay so many times I had stopped reading it properly and overlooked mistakes. The feedback has pointed those out where I would have otherwise lost marks. Thank you”

Lauren Edwards, Plymouth Marjon University Student Union President, speaking at the Studiosity UK Student Outcomes webinar, September 2020

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