The University of Bedfordshire has signed a multi-year partnership agreement with global leaders in online study success solutions Studiosity.
Following a successful initial pilot in 2020-21, and an institution-wide programme in 2021-22, a long-term relationship has now been finalised meaning around 16,000 University of Bedfordshire students have access to personal, routine formative feedback which will develop their capacity for higher-order thinking skills that are critical for success in higher education.
With more than 40% of students being first-in-family, 70% mature learners and over 50% from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, the University originally sought additional support to meet the needs of those who have the most difficulty transitioning into university, and have to do a lot of writing within their course.
To date around 2,680 Bedfordshire students have used Writing Feedback, Studiosity’s formative English-writing feedback service on grammar, spelling, structure and readability, and 24/7 Connect Live which provides one-to-one help from subject specialists, with 77% of students seeking help out-of-hours (outside of 9am-5pm during weekdays) and 6% during weekends, and now the goal is to engage at least 5,000 students over the next 12 months.
“Our students are drawn from mainly widening participation backgrounds, so this means some of our students may not have formal higher education experience and coming to university represents a challenge, but also a significant opportunity,” said Dr David Pike, the University of Bedfordshire’s Head of Digital Learning. “We are keen to make sure that students are able to progress, and it is vital for us to engage and improve the learning experiences of our students in every which way we can. Getting students to understand the importance of engaging with academic writing, learning how to seek help and how to improve, will propel students forward in their studies and beyond.”
As well as the strong level of engagement from students, student satisfaction is also high. In 2021-22, students expressed 95% satisfaction (75% rating their experience ‘Extremely Satisfied’) for Writing Feedback, which saw an average five-hour return time, and for Connect Live there was a 79% satisfaction across 333 sessions with Studiosity’s subject specialists.
“Studiosity has really helped our students, it is also beginning to normalise help-seeking, and we are keen to capitalise on that going forward,” Dr Pike said. “We want to do everything we possibly can to help our students achieve and excel. We also want our students to be the best version of themselves they can be. Beyond our own experts, what we have with Studiosity is something and someone to help students to break down the barriers to academic writing, and to enable students to develop their academic voice and to develop high-quality assessments.”
Dr Pike added that the learnings from the University’s work with Studiosity, particularly around “how and when students are asking for help”, was now being used to inform approaches around student engagement, including with students who have yet to use the services.
“The actual quality and quantity of feedback the students are getting is excellent and the students are responding to Studiosity’s formative feedback,” he revealed. “Some of my academic colleagues have very large cohorts and helping students to learn the nuances of effective writing can be challenging. They have to focus upon developing the resources to provide in-depth feedback and helping and reassuring students to develop their academic voice builds students’ confidence. For these reasons, I would say to anybody who is thinking of using the Studiosity system, or if an institution is thinking of investing, definitely try it. The results for us have been absolutely fantastic.”
Isabelle Bristow, Studiosity’s Managing Director for UK and Europe, said: “We are delighted to extend our partnership with the University of Bedfordshire. The University is hugely committed to nurturing its students and we are thrilled to be part of their solution through our 24/7, personalised, routine formative feedback. Like all good partnerships, the value we are creating together goes way beyond our online services. Dr Pike’s student behaviour research on how Bedfordshire students are seeking academic writing help, and how this knowledge is being used to inform key pedagogical changes to ensure students seek timely help in order to achieve success, is important evidence for the sector.”