New software could help identify ‘at risk’ students

A physics lecturer has developed software that can help identify students with potential stress, wellbeing or mental health related problems at University.

Dr Andrew Markwick, a lecturer in the School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester, has come up with a simple system that allows lecturers and other university staff, such as student support officers, to view and amend different data on the students that relates to their wellbeing.

For example, some of the tell-tale signs a student could be at-risk are non-attendance, a drop in grades or failure to submit work at all. However, these problems viewed in isolation across several different classes or departments can sometimes be easily missed or overlooked. But, together and when viewed holistically, they can paint a picture of a student who is struggling with classes or perhaps even something in their personal life.

This new system, called StudentCRT, allows teaching and support staff to see this data in real-time and update it. For each student the system maintains a score, which is affected by certain outcomes. This score is then used to identify ‘at risk’ students presenting a leader board to student support services.

Dr Markwick explains: “In recent years, as with any university, we have had cases of suicide and attempted suicide among the student population.

“My area of expertise isn’t in mental health or wellbeing but I felt I could help in other ways use my own skillset. So I decided to look at the way we use student data and figure out a better way to utilise it so we can identify at risk individuals before things escalate.

“We wanted to be sure we were doing the best we could to protect our students using the information we collect about them anyway, that’s why we created StudentCRT.”

So successful was the initial trial in the School of Physics and Astronomy, the system has now been in place for two years. Geraldine Garrabet, Student Support Officer in the school, said: “We’re now able to identify students we need to follow-up personally almost as soon as problems start to manifest themselves.”