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LEO on the launchpad?

What are the benefits of an "app competition"? Why do people run them? Jisc's Sue Attewell tells us more.
This article is more than 5 years old

Sue Attewell is Head of Change (further education and skills) at Jisc.

The Department for Education’s announcement of a competition to help make better use of the LEO – or Longitudinal Education Outcomes – data could well be the ticket for edtech entrepreneurs, keen to make a difference not only to student employability, but to student experience as well.

Launched through the small business research initiative to improve prospective students’ access to this valuable data on graduate employment, it comes in response, in part, to a 2016 Student Room survey of 1,800 students, which found that 18% regret their chosen course and 20% regret choosing their university.

Helping applicants choose the right course is a complex problem – our members tell us – and we welcome the potential use of this LEO data as a way students can make informed decisions about sustainable careers which also meet their expectations for future earnings.

Hackathons and competitions

Being Jisc, we’re no stranger to the world of edtech and “edu-preneurs” – we are currently running a hackathon, now open for entries, around the use of “intelligent campus” technology to build the campus of the future.

Our edtech launchpad, has seen an increasing number of products around careers choices and employability being pitched over the past few year. One previous graduate of this scheme is CourseMatch, designed to help young people research, compare and discuss their university and career choices. Over 10,000 students had already downloaded the app by January of this year, a project that came about when one of the founders himself faced the conundrum – like so many students – of what career to pursue, not at application, but at graduation.

Our student ideas competition has given us vital insight into the problems which are highest on student agendas and has enabled us to respond to these in both practical ways – through supporting the development of winning apps – and using this intelligence to feed into our co-design approach. We constantly consult with HE (and FE) members as we seek to develop new products and services, ensuring that these products continue to meet their needs.

New approaches

The benefit of this competition from DfE is that it brings bright minds from beyond the sector to tackle a very real problem. Using current data to design a tech-based solution should help students make informed decisions, so long as they too can inform the design process of an app that makes sense of their own data.

In developing an app you have a platform that is always accessible and visible, making it very convenient, and surprisingly cheap for the user. If the product is available anytime, and anywhere, customer, and student, satisfaction tends to increase; the tools or information are in their back pocket, quite literally.

But developing an app is not an effortless process. It can be expensive and time-consuming and it needs to be constantly updated with the operating systems of mobile devices to even stand a chance of the data being exported, transferred and shared – these are three important decisions for any entrepreneurs keen to make the most of the LEO data for the sector as a whole.

There is of course always more that can be done with data to help students, and with this project from DfE we start to widen the conversation – could the next step be a personal career pathway app, underpinned by real-time data? We certainly think it’s possible. Let’s keep this discussion about student data open and the opportunities for innovation ongoing.

2 responses to “LEO on the launchpad?

  1. I beg to differ with the article’s author. Open data can be very powerful. The Open Knowledge Foundation’s work shows this. This initiative isn’t. It is superficial in that it restricts developers to using a single dataset. It also based on a false assumption that moneysupermarket – and other comparison sites – are an independent, unbiased and wholly altruistic services. They aren’t.

    LEO data has some richness (mainly in the outcome based on prior attainment, ethnicity and such) that an app will not capture. It also has sever weaknesses such as the exclusion of BTEC qualified students from some of its results.

    The very best use of data is when it tells vivid stories. The restrictions and assumptions around this competition make it unlikely the outputs will do this.

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