This is why data could transform online tuition

The intelligent analysis of data can make live online teaching even more effective

The power of data is now being felt in almost every part of our lives. You only have to read about the growth of digital businesses to appreciate that the information and insight generated through interactions with their users is the very foundation of their success.

Yet, we are still at the beginning of a data journey in education – especially when it comes to live instruction. Imagine how exciting it would it be if we realised the full potential of data to improve the effectiveness of online tuition, especially for those students who are falling behind.

The growth of live online teaching

Platforms for live online teaching have experienced enormous growth in recent years, notably since spring 2020, when schools across the world were forced to close their doors to most pupils. And with schools shutting their doors across the UK again this week from 5 January, online learning is once again taking centre stage.

“Imagine how exciting it would be if we realised the full potential of data to improve the effectiveness of online tuition, especially for those students who are falling behind”

But e-learning platforms can be so much more than a substitute for the analogue experience; many also have the capability to create deep data insights into student engagement, which can be used to make teaching and learning even more effective.

Tailoring the learning experience

It’s now within the capability of the technology to provide tutors – and the schools they are supporting – with ongoing evaluation and guidance precisely tailored to them and their students, helping them quickly and accurately pinpoint the exact topics they need for revision far more quickly and more easily than in the past. It also creates a detailed, ‘big picture’ of the most common topics discussed during these sessions – insights that are helping organisations such as the Coronavirus Tutoring Initiative target their tutoring and monitor student progress.

This is exciting technology that’s being used here and now, yet, it merely scratches the surface. The intelligent application of AI technology to live lesson data will, in the future, pinpoint exactly which approaches a tutor uses in their online sessions that create the greatest positive impact on a student’s engagement and performance.

Here’s an example: an online tuition session on our platform – Bramble – typically lasts an hour, and during that time around 3,500 ‘data points’ will be generated. These will be words spoken by tutor and student, as well as actions such as the annotation of resources on the whiteboard and the use of input tools such as pen and text. Using modern machine learning techniques, we will be able to map those data points and determine how, for example, the balance of words spoken and tools used affects the student’s engagement.

The power of performance metrics

These insights will become even more powerful when you map student engagement to performance metrics, which can be gathered in numerous ways, from student and tutor feedback on their understanding and confidence, to mini-assessments before and after tutoring.

This level of rich and accurate data feedback would be used to refine a lesson’s format and approach so that it’s more precisely targeted and focused in future sessions. This is the real promise of AI – providing teachers and tutors with tools to augment their practice.

This is an early but exciting phase – it’s clear that so much will be possible when we combine modern techniques in AI with a comprehensive educational dataset. It will help us make compelling links between teaching, engagement and performance, and it’s in this field that some of the most exciting research and development is taking place.

You might also like: Safeguarding data in an evolving education landscape


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