There’s a saying that for an application to add value it has to be useful, usable and used. Our requirements gathering involved teaching staff from the Faculties and Personal Tutor network, administratve staff from registry services and student support services, and the Student’s Union. If we’ve done our job properly then the application should be useful.
We have spent a lot of time designing the application to be as simple and friendly to use as possible. For example the user can select the screen they see on login to save a click. Maintenance of relationships between staff, course/modules and students could be a nightmare, so we have built in what we are calling “social controls” rather than hard controls. This means for example that I can identify myself as a module tutor, rather than this having to be maintained by an administrator. The social control aspect is enforced by everyone being able to see that I have claimed this role, and allowing students to block any member of staff from having access to their details. It will be interesting to see how this control model pans out in the trial.
We are now working on the third aspect: getting the application used. Since we submitted our initial bid we have had a regime change which resulted in us losing our main senior sponsors. We have worked behind the scenes to maintain the ground-level swell of support for STAR-Trak and have recently started to push STAR-Trak back onto the corporate agenda. As a result we have been asked to submit a paper to the Vice Chancellors Group containing a proposal for an extended trial of STAR-Trak across a full academic year. As other commentators have pointed out, tracking activity data is not usually considered a corporate priority, particularly when HEIs are struggling to cope with very diffeent market conditions. However we have demonstrated strong links with our strategic plan, compliance requirements such as the UK Border Agency and internal policies such as our proposed Student Attendance policy.
So we have useful and usable – let’s see if we can get used …