Public Services > Education

East Riding of Yorkshire – driving learner success with business intelligence

Published 30 November 2017

Jayne Wilcock, curriculum and data manager at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, explains how the authority is using business intelligence methods to monitor and improve the delivery of high-quality teaching, learning and assessment to improve the life chances of the local population


The American politician, Christine Gregoire, once said: “Education is the foundation upon which we build our future.”

Few would argue with that.

But to make a real difference to people’s lives, providers of education and skills need to make sure the right courses are delivered at the right levels and in the right places, ensuring that learners get the most from their studies.

This has been a key focus for my team at East Riding of Yorkshire Council. We deliver a broad range of educational opportunities across a wide geographical area, using technology to help ensure that provision is having a positive impact.

Matching learners with the right courses

We can welcome up to 1,000 learners at any one time from our four main adult learning centres.

Our vision is to provide residents from 16+ with access to high-quality teaching, learning and assessment opportunities. This includes the offer of individual support to help build confidence, promote wellbeing and enhance skills development to ultimately boost the career prospects of learners across the region. The first step to learner success is making sure that individuals have information about and access to appropriate courses. Allowing them the option to view courses and apply online is a key part of this.

Moving enrolment online doesn’t just speed up the process and it’s not about cutting the cost of producing and posting paper-based course information – this is a bonus. By enabling potential learners to browse course options, make enquiries and book and pay online we can often engage with them more effectively than was previously possible.   

The technology links the learner through to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council website. Here they can find more information about financial support options and learning assistance available in the classroom.  

When a potential learner applies for a course that leads to a formal qualification, they will be invited in to see a member of our quality assurance team.  At this stage the learner will receive further information and advice and take part in some initial assessment activities. Those who want to study courses that do not lead to accreditation can move directly on to fully enrol and pay for their course online, taking advantage of the pre-course information that is available to them through the system. 

Of course, we recognise that not every learner wants to, or has the ability to, look for and book their course online and, in such instances, our dedicated customer information assistants are available to support learners through the process.

It works in the same way as many popular e-commerce sites; you can search, follow links to more information, apply for what you want by adding to your basket and check out when you are ready. The application process is less daunting for learners and ensures they can access the help they need to choose a course which is right for them. Providing the option to book and pay online, where appropriate, allows for flexibility in the support we offer and in the different ways our learners like to engage with us. 

Moving processes online can also help us ensure learners get the support they need to complete their studies.

Keeping learners engaged and motivated to succeed

Falling attendance can be an early indicator that a learner might withdraw from a course. Previously, it was difficult to track attendance levels for each of our sites, or to keep an eye out for high rates of absence on a particular course. To spot issues and intervene early, we need reliable and timely data so we can step in and offer the help learners might need to keep studying with us.

Shifting from a paper-based to electronic registration system has made it easier to identify falling attendance sooner – on an individual and group level – as we have access to real-time information from all sites.  Tutors can now rate their learners using a traffic light system of red, amber, green (with red being high risk and green being low risk). We can then identify the challenges they are facing and act quickly to help them find another course, or give them the support they need to keep going. This has helped us significantly reduce the number of learners who withdraw from their courses.  During the 2016-17 academic year, retention was boosted by 4% on the previous academic year and we achieved a 6% rise over a three-year period.  Our overall achievement rates also rose by 4% in the same three-year period.

Being able to view the latest attendance figures, alongside achievement data, also helps us to focus on ensuring quality education is being delivered across the authority and that learners benefit from the best possible learning experience. 

By cutting administration and simplifying day-to- day learner management tasks, time is freed up for our teaching staff to do what they do best – teach. 

Meeting the needs of the community

Our use of technology has allowed us to look at the balance of male and female learners on some of our courses. By analysing the data we have available on learners, using the tools in our UNIT-e management information system, we can quickly spot any gaps.

Knowing this allows us to adjust our marketing activity to ensure we attract a balanced group of learners on courses across our four sites.

With a fresh mindset and by using business intelligence to shape our provision, we have revolutionised the way we support learners and staff.

More informed decisions are made on which courses should be delivered and where. Support is also put in place more quickly to meet learners’ needs. This is key to expanding the scope of opportunities for employment, career and skills development, as well as supporting health and wellbeing across the East Riding area. 

Jayne Wilcock is curriculum and data manager at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, which uses the UNIT-e management information system from Capita’s further and higher education business

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