Microsoft Teams in Higher Education: How to Track Student Wellbeing and Prevent University Dropouts

Student Wellbeing and Covid-19

 

Student wellbeing is a hot topic within the higher education sphere of late, mainly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on learning and, subsequently, student mental health. The move to remote learning has exposed university students to new sources of stress and the way in which universities manage learning is set to change again as many institutions plan to adopt a hybrid approach as we enter “the new normal”, with a mix of face-to-face and remote learning.

 

Preventing Student Dropouts

 

Student wellbeing is important to any higher education institution for a number of reasons, one of which is in the prevention of dropouts. A report released in 2019 indicated that 6.3% of students drop out of university before completing their studies. However, a report by the National Union of Students suggests that 40% of students “seriously considered” dropping out of university as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on their studies.

 

If a student’s wellbeing deteriorates to the point of burnout, they may choose to end their studies early and part ways with the institution. This has a number of repercussions on the university, including financial implications, and wants to be kept to a minimum at all costs. For this reason, monitoring student wellbeing on a continuous basis is hugely important.

 

Monitoring Wellbeing Through Microsoft Teams

 

Many higher education institutions have already recognised the plethora of benefits that comes with a Teams deployment. One of these is the level of connectivity that is offered, which can aid in reducing feelings of isolation and thus promote overall student wellbeing.

 

However, there is much more that Microsoft Teams can do when it comes to tracking and promoting wellbeing and preventing student dropouts.

 

Encouraging Students to Monitor Their Own Wellbeing

 

Before we dive into how your institution can track wellbeing through Teams, it’s worth mentioning how students can be encouraged to do so themselves. Features such as Viva Insights and Personal Productivity Insights can encourage students to monitor their habits and become increasingly self-aware; this level of mindfulness and the encouragement to “check in” can prove invaluable to overall wellbeing.

 

Viva Insights is a fairly new addition to the Microsoft Teams toolkit and comes as a result of the pandemic and the increased emphasis on remote working (and learning). Viva Insights allows students to monitor their working patterns and provides personalised, AI-generated recommendations on how better to manage tasks. Viva also encourages users to “reflect” on their feelings and “take a break” when things are becoming too much, as well as offering features such as to-do lists, virtual commuting, headspace meditation and more.

 

Personal Productivity Insights, available through the MyAnalytics functionality of Teams, presents students with an AI-powered dashboard reporting on how the user works and how they might improve their day-to-day patterns of productivity.

 

For the user’s peace of mind, these analytics are only viewable to them. However, when a student has a better idea of how they work, they become more self-aware and thus better equipped to understand and communicate their wellbeing when necessary, such as in 1:1 reviews with mentors and personal tutors, or even when checking in with each other.

 

How the Institution Can Monitor Student Wellbeing

 

Microsoft Teams also offers a variety of tools to track adoption and usage and, within this, offers usage overviews for team leaders. (In this instance this might be a lecturer, seminar leader, personal tutor, etc.)

 

The Insights functionality within “Workplace Analytics” can provide overviews of student working patterns, help tutors to learn more about how students are operating and identify any patterns that may be leading to burnout or, worse, dropout. For example, as we head into this new wave of “hybrid learning”, tutors will be able to see how students are coping on “at-home” learning days compared to those in which they receive their contact face-to-face. Tutors can also track “after hours collaboration”, to see which students are perhaps struggling to juggle their studies with any chance at downtime outside of contact hours.

 

Furthermore, weekly summaries allow team leaders to track various wellbeing metrics on an ongoing basis, in order to track progress. More importantly, tutors can flag any downfall in these metrics and address these before they lead to anything more serious. Team leaders can also access Microsoft’s “Productivity Score Systems”. Productivity can be a vital indicator of potential burnout; if a student known for being productive suddenly stops working as hard, this loss of motivation could be an early sign of burnout.

 

Other Useful Features

 

Team leaders of tutors can also use Teams to keep in touch with their students on remote learning days, to continuously build on a culture of communication and togetherness and to share any wellness resources that students may find useful.

 

If a tutor is not entirely satisfied with the wellbeing data collected by Microsoft Teams, they can build further on this with the use of other apps, to be integrated into Microsoft Teams, which offer daily check-ins, allow tutors to issue polls and gather additional student feedback, and so on.

 

In Conclusion: Addressing the Problem Early

 

In conclusion, student dropouts continue to be a worry for any higher education institution, likely more so since the pandemic, and the best way to address this is to monitor student wellbeing and address any problems early, before they escalate into something worse. The correlation between student wellbeing and university dropouts cannot be ignored, thus finding ways to monitor and improve student wellbeing will prove invaluable to any institution and, with Microsoft Teams, it is possible to do just that.

 

4C Strategies – Experts in Microsoft Teams and Higher Education

 

4C Strategies is made up by a team of experts in all aspects of unified communications, including Microsoft Teams, that has been assisting organisations in the higher education sector for over two decades. To find out more about how Microsoft Teams can help your institution to monitor student wellbeing and prevent dropouts, as well as the plethora of other benefits it can offer, contact 4C Strategies today on 01858 438938, or email webenquiries@4c.co.uk.

 

Read how Microsoft partnered with one UK university, and how 4C Strategies was able to assist, in this case study.

 

A Further Resource…

 

Did you know that Microsoft recently partnered with UCISA, interviewing 14 CIOs and Heads of IT at Universities throughout the United Kingdom, in a bid to capture insights and perspectives on the future of technology in higher education? 4C Strategies talks about the findings of that survey here.