University of Manchester adds Explorance MLY to its student surveys toolkit

The University of Manchester has invested in Explorance MLY, a revolutionary advancement in the field of feedback analytics, as the Russell Group institution steps up its work to capture and respond to student voice.

As the UK’s largest single-site Higher Education Institution (HEI), with over 26,000 undergraduate and 14,000 postgraduate students, the University has been working with Explorance for over two years to develop its approach to unit evaluation surveys.

Having purchased Explorance Blue through the APUC multi-supplier UK education sector framework for the supply of student module evaluation systems and associated services in the 2021-22 academic year, the institution has now added MLY to its student surveys toolkit.

MLY, formerly known as BlueML, identifies recommendations from comments. For students, it helps to enhance teaching methods and curriculum through the evaluation of student learning experiences, supporting student satisfaction and engagement.

Jo Hicks, Teaching and Learning Manager (Programme Enhancement), said: “Our students have consistently reported that whilst we give them lots of opportunities to provide feedback they are less confident in our approach to telling them what we have done as a result. Working within such a massive university we have always struggled to resource qualitative analysis. There has been nothing on the market to support this need, and using a data dictionary word check would take our strategic planning team weeks to derive anything meaningful from that.”

She continued: “With MLY, we saw in the initial demonstration that qualitative analysis could be done in just 15 minutes, and would give us that all-important story behind the metrics. MLY is usable, efficient and future proof, with plans in place to integrate with Blue. We will use MLY for the first time in our unit surveys this coming January and it will help us to close the feedback loop. It will be an important tool in the work of the University’s newly-formed Student Surveys Strategy Group, which is reviewing future processes.”

Jo added that with Explorance Blue and MLY there was potential for other academic surveys to be delivered outside of the standard university window using the automation scheduling trigger. Pastoral and staff surveys may also be incorporated.

“We have come a long way over the past two years – but there is still work to be done,” she explained. “Our original requirement through this process was to find a system that integrates with our student records system, one that would provide more automation for our unit surveys and allow us to be more flexible and agile, giving us the data quickly to make decisions. Not only does Explorance meet the technical requirement, including that all-important flexibility and agility to deliver smaller-scale Pulse surveys to support change now, it give us access to a user community and UK network for support.

“The Explorance team has provided additional technical assistance as we continue to go through implementation, and over time I am sure this investment will give our institution more confidence in the data environment and the ability to understand different demographics.”

John Atherton, VP Sales EMEA at Explorance, said: “We are delighted to extend our partnership with the University of Manchester. MLY empowers universities to improve student experiences with data-informed insights. It distils actionable feedback from massive amounts of unstructured communication – with machine learning models purpose-built for HEIs. This is an exciting, and game-changing, development.”

In the UK, Explorance supports over 25 universities: Aberdeen, Anglia Ruskin, Bath Spa, Birkbeck – University of London, Brighton, Bristol, Buckingham, Cardiff, Cardiff Metropolitan, Coventry, Durham, Glasgow Caledonian, Keele, Kingston, Leeds, Liverpool John Moores, Loughborough, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham Trent, Northumbria, Sheffield, Strathclyde, Westminster, Worcester and University of Law.

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