Tag Archives: analytics

Looking back (and forward)

Danielle Lloyd, has been with the Oxplore team on a five-month Ambitious Futures placement. As she leaves for her next challenge, she reflects on working with Oxplore and across Widening Access & Participation at Oxford.

My placement with the Oxplore team is (sadly) coming to an end. It’s been an exciting time to be involved in such an innovative and fast moving project, and I’ve had the opportunity to learn lots about widening access and participation along the way. I’ve collected together a few examples of practices I think are important in outreach work…

Tracking and evaluation

Within the Widening Access and Participation team and across the collegiate university, there is an abundance of excellent outreach work taking place. Evaluating these activities has a range of benefits, including informing future outreach practice, providing evidence for continual investment in outreach, ensuring that activities are engaging and meeting the needs of their target audience, and sharing best practice (both within and outside of the institution).

The breadth and variety of practice at Oxford provides opportunity to track and evaluate many types of outreach, but this can also present challenges. How do we evaluate consistently across the university in a way that is effective and time-efficient? A new evaluation framework seeks to address some of these challenges by offering a flexible framework (including suggested survey questions and evaluation format) that can be used by all outreach practitioners. This will also integrate with HEAT (the Higher Education Access Tracker) which is a great tool for a joined up evaluation technique, not just within the university but across all partner institutions.

My experience so far is that whilst evaluation can be challenging and time-consuming, its benefits for effective outreach outweigh the costs.

Collaborative working

Following on from the idea of sharing best practice through evaluation, I have also experienced the importance of sharing resources, knowledge and experience in outreach work. For example, the Oxplore team has been creating (learning) materials (e.g. engaging workshop plans, colourful flyers and lots of branded goodies) to share with college and departmental outreach officers. Working with the wider outreach community in this way gives us an avenue to share Oxplore with a wide range of young people, but also gives outreach officers a new way to share academic research through an engaging Big Questions workshop.

Within Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach, a recent move to a bigger office where the majority of teams are now sitting together increases the potential for collaborative working between outreach, recruitment and communications teams. It can be small things, like sharing a list of annual awareness days for social media marketing, but also bigger things like sending 1000s of flyers to schools and UCAS fairs across the country!


Student involvement

During my time at Oxford, every outreach project I have worked on has included some kind of involvement from student ambassadors, which has a hugely important impact. Students can offer a perspective on Oxford that many staff can’t, and are much more likely to be someone that young people can relate to. At the UNIQ Summer Schools, the Lauriston Lights camp and our own launch day, I saw the ambassadors build a rapport with the participants which engaged and welcomed them in a situation that had the potential to be very intimidating.

launch students
The Oxplore team with student ambassadors Amy, Alastair, Serena and Rebecca

This is just a small sample of the lessons I’ve learnt with Oxplore, and across Widening Access and Participation. I intend to take this all with me to my next role in a FE college (and beyond!).


Consolidating our findings

We learned much from our first pilot of the Oxplore site in the North East. We ran 6 school-based focus groups with 73 young people from years 7 to 12 as well as collecting data on site usage through Google Analytics.

The focus groups offered a space for us to get into detail as well as hear free form feedback about what users might expect from the site. We had several interactive tasks for them to reflect on, as well as plenty of time to discuss their more general thoughts and opinions. It was interesting to hear the similarities and differences between Year 7 students and Year 12 students in their approach to the concept of Big Questions and in how they viewed the content on the site at present. But, as with all good discovery processes, there was no simple answer and much to consider. Not least because we had lots of notes and findings to transcribe back at the office…

cookies-memeOur Google Analytics data brings together the users who first heard about the site through our school workshops as well as those who came to the site from the posters we distributed in schools and social media. There is one substantial barrier for us with our age range of 11-18: Google simply can’t (or maybe won’t) provide demographic (age, gender) or interests data for those under 18. However, we can still get insights into other aspects of site usage. We were pleased with average length of time each user spent on the site and due to some technical wizardry from our developers we can get a good insight into what they did in this time. Translating all this data within the limits of the context that analytics can give us is a challenge.

And, to add just one more degree of difficulty, we have to consolidate the findings of both the focus groups and the analytics! In places they generally support each other, but in a few cases they differ too and we need to make a call on what the answer might be. We also have to consider any new findings alongside our earlier work with our Oxford consultative group. And, with another pilot phase coming soon, we also need to reflect on what we’ve learned about gathering feedback in this way to ensure we get the most out of it.

With all this going on on a granular level, the good news is that – anecdotally at least – we had lots of thumbs up. thumbs-up-sign