University of Canterbury’s ACE system wins Student Success award

The University of Canterbury’s innovative system for identifying and contacting first-year students who may need support has won the 2021 CAUDIT award for Improving Student Success.

University of Canterbury academics and staff contributed their expertise to developing the system, which launched in January 2020. The University of Canterbury team worked with software development company Catalyst to develop a student-facing dashboard on LEARN, UC’s student learning platform. Undergraduate students can view how their engagement levels are tracking compared to their peers.

A workflow was developed to contact each student that ACE identified as being at-risk with a series of stages. When a student is identified as being at-risk, they first receive a text message and that is then followed by University staff contacting them to help them to get back on track.

Tumu Tuarua Akoranga | Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Professor Catherine Moran says ACE takes the University’s student support to a new level and helps to ensure that all first-year students transitioning into tertiary study at UC get the assistance they need, especially those who may not come forward and seek help.

“ACE allows the University of Canterbury to proactively identify when students begin to disengage, make contact with them early on, and ensure they have the support to get on the right path to success.”

Data for Semester 1, 2021 shows more than 1,800 students were contacted via the ACE system. More than half of those students re-engaged following the first text communication. Fewer than 3% of those students picked up by ACE were escalated to student support teams, and only about 1% required a follow-up with an emergency contact.

Student feedback on ACE has been positive, with many students indicating the ACE dashboard has helped them to determine whether they need to improve their engagement with course materials.

“I can use ACE to see the difference between me and my classmates, and I can make an effort to do something for a better result. So ACE is kind of an encouragement tool,” says Kayla Wu, a University of Canterbury student.

Professor Moran says the University is delighted the ACE system has been recognised with this CAUDIT award.

“We’re really proud to have introduced this innovation into the student success space and to help our students to adapt to tertiary study and university life in such an effective way.”

She says UC has received funding from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) to further enhance the ACE system.

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