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Use case: Capturing Feedback on the Intelligent Campus

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What’s the Issue?

As universities and colleges feel the pressure to provide an enhanced student experience the intelligent campus will play an increasingly important role. An acknowledged “great campus” will be a major asset. Students and staff can all help in developing a better campus, identifying issues and successes, contributing ideas and improving the experience. This input can be collected, at least in part, through a range of feedback mechanisms.

Universities and colleges already collect considerable quantities of feedback, whether it is formative and summative feedback, relating to academic work and learning, or with respect to their overall experience through the National Student Survey (NNS).

However, as the intelligent campus becomes an important reality for many institutions there will be a need to find how its users feel about the campus environment and to find the answers to questions about:

  • The quality of the facilities, the buildings, campus environment etc.
  • The availability of facilities. Is it too crowded? When are the busy times? Are they in the right place?
  • Is the campus user friendly and enjoyable?
  • Do they feel safe on campus? Is the lighting adequate? Is help readily available?
  • Are there problems and issues that need addressing?
  • What do they like about the campus and what could be improved?
  • What was their experience today, or even right now, on campus?

Perhaps questions about wider issues such as its integration with the city and its services could be addressed as well.

Indeed, feedback can be used to manage and run the campus better. For example, identifying crowded periods and encouraging or timetabling for use during quieter times.

How to address the issues

The happy sheet

The traditional questionnaire is still the first port of call for most feedback, unfortunately, there are limitations to this method with generally low levels of participation, little flexibility, processing overheads and lack of immediacy. However, the questionnaire is being given a helping hand through technology that improves the processing and interpretation of free text survey results. The days of a pile of forms that sit waiting for the time consuming, manual processing may have gone, thanks to online, mobile feedback surveys but results still need to be collated and analysed. Systems such as Keatext are employing AI to interpret natural language content and machine learning to analyse feedback and enhance its value.

Make me smile

A very quick, if slightly superficial, feedback method that many of us will have seen and used in places such as airport security are the smiley buttons. Simply press one of 4 or 5 options – each has a smiley style face with varying degrees of happiness (or unhappiness). These units can be placed at various locations on a campus such as outside lecture theatres or libraries asking how the student feels about their experience of that location. Companies such as HAPPYorNOT provide a range of these types of terminal along with software to provide real-time analysis of the data collected. Systems like these can also give early warning of a looming problem. Large numbers of very negative responses in a short period could lead to an appropriate urgent response.

The power of the touch

The introduction of touch screens on campus can provide a much more sophisticated feedback mechanism across the campus. Again, placed in strategic locations, campus users are able to provide instant feedback. The feedback requested could vary depending upon the time of day or activities taking place.

  • First thing in the morning feedback on morning commute could feed into transport and travel policy,
  • On the hour information about the congestion across the campus can be collected
  • Alternatively real-time feedback on the quality of their last lecture could be gathered
  • The lunchtime waiting times and queuing arrangements could also be commented upon
  • In the evening campus users thoughts on campus lighting and safety can be collected
  • On open days screens can be configured to receive feedback from prospective students and their parents

Mobile feedback

Similarly much of this type of feedback can be collected via apps on mobile devices. A wealth of feedback applications are available for smartphones and tablets examples include the Instant Student Feedback (ISF) app developed at Uppsala University in Sweden which can provide the institution with instant feedback on the student experience.

Being sociable

Social media is increasingly being used in the retail world to elicit feedback from customers and a number of universities are following suite in terms of monitoring social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. The intelligent campus could proactively encourage this though the use of hashtags and QR codes. These could be promoted across the campus and related to a particular building or location. For example, users of the university Learning Resource Centre might be asked to provide feedback using “#UniversityLRC”. There may be dangers in this type of public feedback with its lack of structure and possible Trip Advisor type ratings but it will provide another valuable feedback channel as long as resources are made available to monitor and respond to the feedback generated.

We know what you’re thinking

Another method of collecting feedback that is being investigated is the use of emotion recognition technology. This could have the potential to provide unconscious feedback, making it more difficult to be manipulated by those with an agenda. While this development is at the early adopter stage it could be envisaged that images of campus users will be used to establish their state of mind and how they feel about their current experience on the campus. Companies like Crowdemotion are piloting systems to track and interpret emotions such as happiness, surprise, puzzlement, fear, sadness and rejection.

The “Internet of Things” is watching

Subtle, unconscious feedback could also be gathered through the internet of things, including the use of wearable devices, sensors, cameras, vending machines, doors, lifts and mobile devices to track:

  • movements around the campus,
  • the choices made by campus users
  • what events and activities they attend,
  • where they spend time
  • what they purchase

All of this data will provide feedback about how the campus is being used, by whom and how often. Using this data the campus will learn what is successful, and do more of it, along with what is unsuccessful, and do less of it.

And so…

A key message is that the opportunities to collect feedback are many and increasing across the intelligent campus. Any university or college that is committed to the development and improvement of the student experience will recognise that the overall campus environment is a significant part of this experience. However resources will need to be made available to interpret and learn from feedback, and for the appropriate changes to take place as a result.

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