Less pressure = happier tutors
Retaining college tutors is an ongoing challenge for the UK further education sector. Since 2010/11, sixth form colleges have reduced the number of staff by 11%, despite seeing a 6.5% increase in student numbers. This has consequently resulted in a 28% increase in the average learner-to-teacher ratio across the sector, which has not helped the growing workloads of each member of staff. With the mounting pressure on college tutors – and the sector as a whole – to meet targets and excel performance within the reduced budgets, it is clearly time for something to change.
Lack of time is a big issue for college tutors, with excessive workloads cited as one of the biggest challenges faced. Despite many tutors working up to 70 hours per week, many still say there are not enough hours in the day for the long list of tasks that need to be completed. In fact, more than half a tutor’s day is said to be consumed by tasks outside of core teaching, including marking or lesson planning. But these tasks are still essential, and arguably not something tutors can omit from their busy days.
A college tutor’s endless to-do list means that tasks such as analysing student performance or attendance and building reports can often fall to the bottom of the list. However, unfortunately this will create a far bigger task in the long run when it comes to the end of the term or academic year and reports need to be compiled. Worse still, it also means that underperforming – or excelling – students, poor attendance rates or decreasing engagement levels often go unnoticed, regardless of how attentive a tutor tries to be each day. And, if these situations aren’t spotted in time, they can often escalate, leaving bigger consequences to deal with and making it harder for remediating steps to be put in place to get the student back on track.
From hours to minutes
Analysing and reporting on student performance and attendance can no longer be a forgotten task. Whilst these tasks aren’t seen as fundamental to a tutor’s job, it is in fact the contrary: executed correctly, data analytics can make their lives much easier.
Data analytics and reporting are often perceived to be a complex task. In reality, this is far from the truth.
However, data analytics and reporting are often perceived to be a complex task. In reality, this is far from the truth. With key data dashboards already set up to show all of the critical elements for a tutor to assess, such as attendance, behaviour, exam results and engagement in extra-curricular activities, a simple glance is all that’s needed for a tutor to get the insight they need.
The hours that these tasks usually would have taken can then be turned to minutes, as tutors will no longer need to spend endless time searching through spreadsheets or interpreting data to find the patterns they’re looking for. Finding the data to make sure, for example, that a planned lesson will cater for all of the abilities in the class, will become a task that can be ticked off the to-do list in no time; a quick look at the performance dashboard will show the tutor that the lesson has been planned to the right level based on previous exam results and student performance.
Whilst the education sector is known for its lengthy planning meetings after-hours, the strategic use of data analytics can make these meetings dramatically shorter.
Furthermore, using the data that is already at the fingertips of all college tutors will mean that when reports need to be pulled together in an instant, the last-minute scramble to find the information they need will become a thing of the past. Patterns can quickly be identified, conclusions can be drawn, and plans can be put in place to make sure each student is performing to the best of their ability, so that when exam time comes, there will be no hidden surprises.
And whilst the education sector is known for its lengthy planning meetings after-hours, the strategic use of data analytics can also make these meetings dramatically shorter. With all tutors or heads of department given access to the data they need ahead of time, information can be presented in reports and dashboards that are easy to digest and therefore enable decisions to be reached far quicker, making planning meetings productive and actionable.
From the archive: Interview with data strategist Andy Youell
Editor Charley Rogers speaks to data strategist Andy Youell about how institutions can make the most of the information at their fingertips without blowing the budget. Read the full interview here.
Saving time and boosting performance
From marking to planning, organising extra-curricular activities and teaching the lessons themselves, it can be a tiring juggling act for any tutor to get from term to term. However, data analytics can be the ally every college tutor needs: promoting quick, data-driven decisions, keeping an eye on performance throughout the year and saving them valuable time as a result.