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Team behind teaching technology win higher education innovation award

31 August 2017
Technology to improve student engagement recognised

A group of University of Sydney staff led by the Education Portfolio won the Innovation in Technology Enhanced Learning award at the Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards dinner.

A group of University of Sydney staff led by the Education Portfolio have won the $20,000 Pearson and ACODE Award for Innovation in Technology Enhanced Learning, presented on 29 August at the Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards dinner.

The team won for creating and successfully rolling out the technology, called Student Relationship Engagement System (SRES), which allows teaching staff to collect, analyse, and act on data to better engage and communicate with students at scale as individuals.

The core staff who developed and led the SRES technology are:

We developed our Student Relationship Engagement System to overcome the difficulties in connecting with students in large cohorts, so that teaching staff can communicate with students more effectively.
Professor Adam Bridgeman

“The system allows teachers to collect a fully customisable set of data on their students based on their knowledge of their class, which they can then act on," said Professor Adam Bridgeman, Director of Educational Innovation, in the Education Portfolio.  

"This could be sending totally personalised and targeted emails to their students, or building a web portal so students can receive personalised feedback and support,” explained Professor Bridgeman.

“It’s often hard to make each student in a large cohort feel valued as an individual and to maintain communication with them, so the SRES gives teaching staff a tool to do that.”

The system works for teaching teams across different devices, so teaching staff can enter and see data about their students when and where they need to. The data is also saved securely to the cloud.

“We designed the SRES because we believe in enhancing teacher-student relationships by using data in a meaningful and context-sensitive way,” said Dr Danny Liu, one of the SRES project leaders from the Educational Innovation team in the Education Portfolio.

The winning University of Sydney Student Relationship Engagement System team receive their prize from Associate Professor Michael Sankey (far left), Vice President of ACODE, and David Barnett (far right), Managing Director of Pearson. The team are (l-r): Ruth Weeks, Professor Adam Bridgeman and Dr Danny Liu.

The University of Sydney Student Relationship Engagement System team Ruth Weeks, Professor Adam Bridgeman and Dr Danny Liu receive their prize from Associate Professor Michael Sankey (far left), Vice President of ACODE, and David Barnett (far right), Managing Director of Pearson.

“The initial pilot for SRES started in 2012 in one department across four units of study at Sydney, and now it reaches over 25,000 students across three Australian universities, plus an extra four universities across Australia are either just starting to use, or are in discussions to start using, the SRES,” said Dr Liu.

“Using the SRES has resulted in really positive feedback from students – both anecdotally and in official student surveys – because they appreciate getting personalised communications from their teachers. Teachers consistently tell us how the SRES helps them to personally reach out in ways that weren’t possible previously, how much this means for them and their students, and how this improves retention, engagement, and student outcomes."  

The technology has been so successful because it is user-friendly and gives each teacher the ability to bring together a range of data that is meaningful for engagement and success in their individual unit of study.

The award judging panel was ‘hugely impressed with this teacher-developed, ground-up initiative, and its impactful use of data in helping teachers connect with and inspire more students more efficiently’.

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