Catherine Allesi: “We are designing a future in education based on a personalised learning solution for each student”

Catherine Allesi, vice president and analyst at Southern New Hampshire University in the United States, visited Camilo José Cela University and spoke, among other things, about the importance of data analysis when designing personalised learning for each student and about the role of technology in the current and future educational system.

Question. What is your role in Southern New Hampshire University?

Answer. So, I lead the analytics organization within the university, so we have a team of about 52 analysts and we’re organized to support the different areas within the university, whether that be marketing and admissions or academics or student experience we have some subject matter experts on the team that work with each of those groups to kind of help with the analytics needed.

Q. What do you think is the importance of analytics in the current educational system?

A. I think analytics is extremely important so that we can understand where our students are at, and where they need to go to improve the outcomes, so what we like to do is look at analytics across the student life cycle and that might be starting from when they’re just a prospect and what is it that that student needs to be able to meet the goals that they’re looking for. Analytics can help understand what programs might be best for that student based on the past experiences that they are bringing in, and so we can start right there, in the beginning of their journey. Then we will continue to use analytics as they move through their programs, so we can understand if they’re successful or where they might be finding a need and stumbling and needing some additional support, we can use analytics to recommend the right support for that student at the right time to continue with their success and help them persist. And, you know, also understanding…. getting some feedback from those students through various voice of customer, voice of student areas so that we can use that feedback to enhance our programs, improve them and improve the student experience overall.

Q. Amazing. So, innovation is one of the main pillars of Southern New Hampshire University, can you tell us a little bit more about the future educational plans you have in store?

A. Yeah, so right now we are definitely looking at what the future of our offering should be in education and really what it comes down to is a customized path for each individual student and what that might mean is, again, looking at a student, a learner, coming into us, who may or may not have had any higher educational experience but they may be bringing in some experience who might be used toward prior learning, credit toward a new program, or maybe it’s just that they’re looking to gain a skill to advance them in wherever they’re working right now and they need a digital badge or some sort of micro credential. So, I think what we’re thinking about for the future is a customized learning solution for who that student is, what their background is, what their interests are, and ultimately what they want their outcomes to be.

Q. How will technology help to evolve education and students?

A. I think, you know, similar to what I was saying, I think we need to use technology to really understand how to meet those students’ needs, so, maybe that is using technology in a better way to assess where a student has already been in the attributes and the experiences that they have brought in, to understand and recommend something that would be most beneficial to that student to help them with their goals, so from that perspective I think using technology, using machine learning is going to be really important. I think overall we’re trying to use technology today even to enhance the student experience so, whether that’s using chatbots or other automated solutions for areas where a student is probably more likely to want a self-serve and then have those kind of more personalized one-on-one experiences with advisors, where they really need somebody to talk through, and so we can be more efficient with the way that we’re deploying resources and also meeting a student with what their needs are and what they would like to do from a self-service standpoint as well.