The sum of all parts: how edtechs are helping universities improve the student experience

There is no doubt that the landscape of higher education is changing. As addressed in our Step Up summit in May 2020, university senior leaders are beginning to really think outside the box when it comes to choosing tools and providers that will  continue to and improve on the delivery of high quality education and services to students, particularly in the post-covid world.

At Step Up we know there are  advantages of utilising edtech startups to help solve some of the current challenges of higher education. Startups often have smaller, more focused teams, can re-iterate their solutions faster than larger companies and are often much more likely to be able to deliver and adapt their solutions in tune with institutions, providing quicker and more focused results.

In our recent research report The Start of Something Big? we identified that providing the best, most equitable student experience is one of the top priorities for universities. As student populations diversify, so must the range of support services, and ease of access to these services. Universities must be more focused on providing preventative measures when students are struggling and offer targeted support where needed. The student experience is fast becoming a key differentiator for many universities, and the ever-present issue of ensuring student wellbeing and good mental health means decision makers cannot allow this to slip as a top priority.

One Step Up company determined to address this issue is Vygo. Ben Hallett, CEO explains how creating a strong ecosystem model of tools is helping to address this. 

“Previously, the general outlook of education institutions favoured monolithic software that claimed to facilitate all parts of the student experience. These software packages would come with hefty price tags, long procurement cycles and long contract lengths. This model discouraged  education institutions from changing providers and dissentivised software providers from continuously optimising their platforms for students. The fallout of this model often left staff and students with clunky software standing in between them and their potential. 

As an alternative approach, Vygo’s aim is to address student retention by improving access to support services. Ben says; “After witnessing too many of our friends at university dropping out after failing to meaningfully connect with the institution’s rigid support services, we decided that we needed to solve this. When analysing the problem, we found a number of issues: a lack of clear signposting of where to go when you needed help; analogue support services with long waitlists; over-burdened administrators and; inequity of access. So we built a mobile and web platform that allowed universities to aggregate all of their support services and put them meaningfully at the fingertips of students whether they were on-campus or off campus.”

One particular example of this is Vygo’s recent work at Coventry University. They have been able to help deliver continuous online support and peer connection to Coventry’s students wherever they’ve been isolated across the globe during the COVID-19 restrictions.

One of Coventry University’s peer mentors, Asqa, has been able to support a number of her peers during COVID through the platform.

“I am absolutely loving this platform. This has been really helpful for new students who are away from the university campus but still, they have access to learn through Vygo App. This also helps students to interact with people and make new friends as well. I am having a really good time by working as a mentor; it has been such a great experience for me.”

The wider discussion of how universities are evolving to meet the needs of students is most certainly underway. Along with Vygo, edtech startups like Aula, Bibliu and UniBuddy are working together using learning analytics and personalisation to help create meaningful student experiences which match up to expectations. Through greater personalisation universities will deliver more consistent, better experiences for all students including distance learners, part-timers and those  from disadvantaged backgrounds or underrepresented groups. With the modern wave of edtech startups there is a fundamental shift towards providing platforms that go deep on a specific niche of the student experience, and interact with each other to provide the most seamless, high quality experience for the student as possible.

To find out more please visit our Step Up insights page.