Personalisation in the portal – Moray House students portlet
We’ve blogged before about personalisation in MyEd:
Since then, we’ve been doing some work to understand what personalisation might look like, and to assess its effectiveness.
Moray House pilot
MyEd is a key tool for students, and many students use it daily. We’ve been running a pilot with colleagues in Moray House School of Education and Sport (MHSES) to explore whether including school level and dynamic content in MyEd can help support students better, and increase their sense of belonging. The School also hoped to make students more aware of the support resources provided through the School SharePoint site and encourage students to use this resource.
Together with colleagues Emily Birtles and Neale Summers from the Moray House Student Experience and Support Office team, we explored the types of content that might be relevant, thinking about student needs at different points of the semester, and considering the types of queries and support requests that the Student Experience and Support Office handles at different times of year.
Moray House students portlet
We decided that we would create a new portlet in MyEd, specifically for Moray House students. It would contain a mix of fixed content, which would direct students to key resources, support information which would be updated on a regular basis, and events information highlighting events that are taking place within the school likely to be of interest to students. The portlet would be added to the MyEd home page for students, and would also be available to staff from MHSES. The first version of this portlet can be seen below.
This first version of the portlet was live from 08 September 2021 until 01 November 2021 (with some updates to events information). Since then there have been three updates to the portlet, as well as changes to events.
How did it go?
The portlet saw a good amount of usage immediately after launch, appearing among students’ 20 most used portlets for the 2 weeks after its launch, despite only being available to Moray House students (about 8% of all students). Events information accounted for around half of all usage, with the welcome events in particular proving very popular. Also well used were the Top 6 tasks and 2021/2022 Updates. However, usage levels quickly dropped after this 2 week launch period.
Later versions of the portlet saw lower levels of usage overall. Usage for Events and Chat levelled off, but then remained quite steady throughout the year. Other content saw much more variable use – a link through to Extensions and Special Circumstances in the second half of semester 1 was heavily used, whereas other links saw only a handful of clicks.
Updates and content
The Student Experience and Support Office and Portal Services teams worked collaboratively to identify relevant content and update the portlet. This wasn’t always easy, and we definitely didn’t always get it right. However, it was a very useful learning exercise which helped both teams develop a better understanding of what types of content would work, and what we needed to think about when evaluating whether content should be included.
- The right content at the right time. Students responded to practical, relevant content that was available when they needed it – for example a link to sign up for Dissertation Buddies was only available for a week, but had around 100 clicks in that time.
- Fixed content where there is an ongoing need, such as the link to the Live Chat, and events information.
What didn’t work
- Leaving content in the portlet past its sell-by date. The intention was always that content should change to reflect the time of year and current activities and priorities of students, but we were not always quick enough to update content, or strict enough about assessing the current value of content.
- Including content which didn’t have a really clear purpose or direct benefit for students. It was tempting to include content that ‘ought’ to be of interest to students, or that was a business or strategic priority, but this isn’t the right channel for this type of information, and it wasn’t used.
- Not responding to usage data. If it’s not being used, change it!
Further research is needed to understand how effective this pilot has been. We can tell from the usage analytics that students are engaging with it, and can draw some conclusions about what is working and what is not. From the Student Experience and Support Office perspective it has been successful, comparing well to responses from other channels, and in particular, increasing student usage of the Live Chat facility. However, we don’t fully understand what’s behind the usage data, and we don’t know what students think about it.
What happens next?
Research with students
We haven’t yet done any research with students about their experience of using the portlet. After the initial launch, usage levels reduced, and we also have anecdotal evidence that some students are completely unaware of the portlet, so we need to know more about how students are using (or not using) it, and what was and was not useful to them.
Continuing the pilot
We plan to continue this school-based pilot next academic year, using what we have learned so far to refine and improve the portlet, and carry out further research with students.
Developing content guidelines
Identifying the right content was challenging, but we now have a better understanding of what worked and what didn’t. Much of this is common sense, but we plan to develop a set of guidelines that will make it easier to assess whether a piece of content should be included or not. The student research will also feed into this. These guidelines will support schools and other content providers to manage and update their own content.
We would like to trial a portlet for a different school. This will help us understand how similar or different this type of portlet might look for different schools. It will also help us learn what support and guidance school colleagues might need when first starting to use a MyEd portlet to ensure that they are able to maximise the benefits of the portlet for their students.
We also want to explore other ways we can increase the use of personalisation in MyEd, for example other ways of surfacing curated content within the portal, or using data sources such as usage analytics, search requests or support queries to highlight relevant information at key times of year.
This pilot was a proof of concept, and isn’t scalable in its current form. For the pilot, content in the portlet was manually updated by the Portal Services team. However, this isn’t the approach we’d want to take long term. We need to investigate what technical tools would be needed to enable this type of approach to be rolled out more widely, and to devolve the management and updating of content.
Find out more
If you are interested in knowing more, or would like to collaborate with us on further pilots, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks to Emily Birtles from Moray House School of Education and Sport for her contributions to this post.