Dominic Chapman

by Joshua Whitney Allen

IBM ESE technologies drive student achievement at British institution

A Q&A with Brockenhurst College’s Dominic Chapman

Published September 22, 2014


Of the traditions upturned by this digital age, the educational space best shows both our embrace of new ideas and our retention of the old technologies that humanity isn’t yet ready to replace. Grade schoolers and Ivy Leaguers use textbooks and tablets to submit papers or take a quiz, which teachers grade either electronically or by red pen. Administrators manage budgets with long-used filing systems or with the use of enterprise software.

Despite the stubborn presence of aging features in education, organizations throughout the world have demonstrated a willingness to modernize broad aspects of the learning environment. Last year, the United States Federal Communications Commission allocated over $2 billion to provide schools with communications equipment. Textbook publishers orient their futures toward e-learning development, hoping to build media with the elusive mix of appeal and pedagogy that will convince faculties to totally revamp the way they teach.

Active in institutional-scale efforts to invigorate education, IBM has linked with colleges and school systems worldwide on improvements to administrative, teaching, and marketing efforts. Big Blue recently announced a partnership with Brockenhurst College, based in Hampshire, England, to deploy IBM’s Exceptional Student Experience (ESE) technology from IBM.

According to a release, the technology uses a mixture of the latest cloud, analytics, mobile, and social solutions to personalize the student experience. The college is hoping to achieve a 15 percent increase in growth and a 15 percent reduction in students who are at risk of dropping out over the next five years.

Insights Magazine caught up with Dominic Chapman, Head of Division, Creative, English and Computing Studies, Brockenhurst College, who explains how IBM’s products will reshape the school’s operations and teaching at several levels.

Insights Magazine: What are the notable features of IBM’s Exceptional Student Experience offering?

Dominic Chapman: The ESE is actually a suite of technologies which combine to add additional value for us in a number of different areas—digital marketing to focus on improving recruitment; SPSS and Cognos to provide us with business analytics and management information; and Connections and Sametime for communities and interactive communications tools.

IM: How will this product be customized for use at Brockenhurst?

DC: We will be using the analytics tools to predict and identify learners who may be at risk of not completing their courses. The analytics model will be able to predict this 6-8 weeks in advance based upon a range of both historical and behavioral factors. It will allow us to identify these students and put in intervention strategies early to help support the learner to successfully complete. As well as having the obvious benefit for the learner, it will also allow the college to ensure we receive maximum funding.

The Sametime and Connections tools will allow interactions between staff, students, parents, and employers and the wider community in a way it was not possible before. This will allow students to learn and collaborate with other learners not only in their own class but across the College and the rest of the world. Brockenhurst College has two sister schools in China as well as students from some 31 countries. We hope that the communities will allow students to interact on a truly global basis as well as transform learning day-to-day by bringing new interactive technology into the classroom—both real and virtual. We also intend to use the Connections software to overhaul some key business processes to improve the way we interact with our prospective learners and take cost out of the business.

IM: How does the solution utilize mobile, social, analytic, and cloud technologies?

DC: The entire solution is built in the cloud using a SoftLayer platform, which is hosted and supported by an IBM business partner. This allows us to avoid cost long term as well as provide a scalable secure environment. The Connections toolset provides us with our own social platform, and of course we expect this to be used across the full range of mobile platforms. There will be up to 3,000 users of these systems on a daily basis.

SPSS and Cognos are used for analytics and to provide end user management information. Interestingly, we are intending to use Cognos to push information onto every one of our learners on a daily basis to give them an overview on their performance and progress.

IM: What metrics will be used to measure the solution's performance?

DC: The business case is built around return on investment centered on growth in student numbers and ensuring we retain all our learners. Over a 5-year period, we anticipate a 15 percent growth in student numbers coupled with a 15 percent improvement on the already excellent retention of students we enjoy at the college. What this doesn't articulate however is the transformation in teaching and learning which the solution will enable us to deliver—the ‘exceptional student experience’—and this will underpin everything we are looking to achieve with working with IBM.

IM: What sort of cultural acceptance can we expect from students when they are met with a new technology?

DC: We are not anticipating a problem here! We have around 3,000 16-19 year olds who will be using these systems on a daily basis—increasingly we are seeing that they fuse their social and study lives and we expect this to be a natural extension to the way they already interact. Within our staff body, too, we have a number of passionate early adopters who will help drive the implementation and adoption across all the curriculum areas of the college.



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