HSDC is using UNIT-e software to automatically record when students are away due to Covid-19, alert their lecturers and the college’s senior managers, and show who they may have been in contact with on campus, enabling students to get back into the classroom while keeping them safe.
HSDC is a multi-site further education college in Hampshire, welcoming teenage and adult learners onto courses ranging from A Levels and BTECs to foundation learning and apprenticeships.
Just like many other FE colleges in England, its mixture of ages and types of courses, plus its greater number of disadvantaged students, makes following the Government’s guidance on dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic even more challenging than it is for schools. So, when ministers said they wanted students to go back to college in September, HSDC’s managers knew they had to innovate to make it happen.
Rather than spend scarce resources on new software, HSDC decided to use the tools it already had to meet the challenge of moving students from remote to face-to-face learning while protecting their health and wellbeing. So, it used elements of our UNIT-e suite of information management solutions to build a Covid-19 tracking application, which automatically brings data together from across the college to give senior managers a clear view of what’s happening at its three sites.
In just a day, HSDC built an application that makes sure that everyone who needs to know about a student’s absence receives the right information. It:
Logs student absences due to Covid-19, and the reason (such as showing symptoms, testing positive for the virus or being told to self-isolate by the NHS)
Automatically notifies relevant teachers via emails that cannot be forwarded and that are deleted after 21 days to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
Automatically updates attendance registers until students return to class
Emails senior managers a daily dashboard report analysing Covid-19 notifications and absences
When needed, provides a proximity report to show the other students and staff members that are timetabled to be in contact with someone who is affected by Covid-19.
The college has been very careful to ensure that the application handles students’ confidential health information securely, alerting only the people who need to know about their status as quickly and as accurately as possible.
HSDC has been using the application since the start of the Autumn term at the beginning of September, when it logged its first absences of students unable to attend due to Covid-19. Since then, staff feedback has enabled the college to improve the application so that it meets staff and students’ needs even more closely.
It has been sending daily monitoring reports to the college’s senior management and student health and wellbeing teams, and its automation component has lifted a significant administrative burden off staff members’ shoulders, leaving them free to focus on helping students to adjust to being back at college after a long summer of lockdown.
Thanks to UNIT-e’s flexibility, adaptability and responsiveness, HSDC has been able to develop a tool that breaks down informational siloes at each of its three sites to give its senior management team a clear view of the trends and patterns of Covid-19-related absences in real time, reassures teaching staff that the college is taking positive action to deal with the Coronavirus, and reassures students that their learning environment is safe.
Mike Gaston, Principal and CEO of HSDC, said: “The welfare of our students and staff is our top priority. Being able to create this new tool in UNIT-e in such a short period of time means we had real-time monitoring from the start of term. It has given us the ability to respond rapidly when and where we need to.”
If there is an outbreak on campus, the college can target its response and minimise the impact on students’ safety, wellbeing and learning.
This isn’t the end of the story, however. HSDC has plans to develop the tool even further, to include features such as a self-service online form for students and parents to use directly and additional automated processes to ensure that students entitled to free meals don’t lose their allowance if they’re absent because of Covid-19.