Australia’s higher education sector faces two key imperatives—internal and external. Internally, it is the goal of students to be academically successful. Externally, they have to satisfy the high standards of compliance expected of the country’s registered higher education providers, which are set by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TESQA).
UBSS, which offers business degrees at Bachelor’s and MBA (Master of Business Administration) level, has deployed artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to meet this double challenge.
According to the business school, it has the seventh largest MBA student enrolment in Australia. With a campus of more than 1,600 students, UBSS must access multiple internal and external data sources to meet its mission of providing a richer and deeper understanding of the teaching and learning process, as well as enriching its students’ experience.
UBSS dean Andrew West explains the complexity involved with the six different academic management systems the organisation employs while interacting in real-time with the Department of Education, Skills and Employment for academic data, the Department of Home Affairs for visa and immigration data, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for international student intelligence.
“Although we were using the best platforms available, we found that no academic management platform meets all our needs. So, we deployed the Qlik Sense data analytics platform,” West elaborates. “By the end of 2019, we were well on our way by using Qlik’s associative engine to bring all relevant data together for detailed analysis. By making better sense of the data, we were making better, more informed decisions.”
Qlik helped maintain the edge during COVID-19
Until the COVID outbreak, all UBSS students were in face-to-face learning setup on the Sydney campus. On Wednesday 18 March 2020, UBSS had to observe COVID-19 lockdown regulations and closed its doors. Exactly a week later, UBSS was operating 100% online.
“Fortunately, we already had Qlik sitting in the middle of our systems, aggregating all of our data and monitoring things daily. We were able to use the data from Moodle, the student learning management system, to see the interaction of students with the curriculum, lecture times, and assessment schedule,” West recalls. “We were able to react very quickly to what was happening. Otherwise, we would have been in a bit of trouble, as many of our competitors were.”
He highlights that instead of just being satisfied with online delivery, UBSS had to level up. “We were able to analyse and achieve great insights to assist us in our decision making, not only on a daily basis where speed of decision making is critical, but also strategically for our longer-term cycle.”
Students and teachers enjoy faster information from wide range of sources
“It is handling the whole student journey pretty well. From prospective student analysis, pre-admissions and admissions, academic departments, student support, and then on the top of that is IT and finance,” West explains on how Qlik is deployed across several departments.
“Rather than having this disparate series of Excel sheets and reports coming from all directions, our staff are benefiting from the speed with which the information comes through and have a better understanding and input into the way their reports come out and all fit together,” West adds.
West says the result is greater speed access, much higher quality data and improved information presentation. This makes decision-making better, West says. West believes that this innovation has a positive impact on their students.
UBSS’ student feedback about the online process has remained high and confirmed a consistent level of service and results. Student retention increased as did the completion rate of studies.
The findings are reinforced by the federal government’s national Quality Indicators in Learning and Teaching (QILT) survey conducted every September.
Opportunities and challenges in the post-COVID era
Looking ahead, UBSS anticipates a blended environment once COVID wanes: some students will stay online via its studio setup and others physically coming into the classroom.
West pinpoints a key planning strategy for the future. “We want to do more with the predictive capability offered by Qlik. Using Qlik for data analytics and AI, we can quickly ascertain the big picture trends, then easily drill down to the granular level to focus on the key drivers of academic quality and student support.”
UBSS is working and honing that aspect to inform and predict the future curriculum, assessment, course selection, learning design, and student interface and support. West adds that through the use of machine learning, UBSS will be able to apply predictive analytics for the resource allocation of courses, lecturers, and student support.
This also assists with future planning, sales and marketing trend analysis.
“I know our chief financial officer is keen to harness the power of Qlik. For instance, in the first six weeks of any trimester, we get a lot of daily figures as far as student enrolment, student subject selection, fees paid or not paid,” says West.
West concludes: “Qlik helps, not so much with the calculation of it, but the distribution of that information so the reports are run overnight and are available on the dashboard the next day. We are looking to move and use Qlik to do more financial analysis.”