“Our commitment to the institution-wide adoption of Aula’s Learning Experience Platform is a commitment to building learning communities that engage and excite today’s students in their academic experience at university.”
As universities move towards more flexible delivery, deeply engaging students is key to improving retention, achievement, and satisfaction.
Forward-looking institutions like Coventry University, shortlisted for UK University of the Year in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021, are showing their commitment to learning excellence by embracing a community-first approach with Aula, the Learning Experience Platform (LXP) for higher education.
In September 2020, Coventry became the first institution to transition all courses from Moodle to Aula—a process that benefited more than 40,000 students across 6 campuses.
While an engaging learning experience is crucial to the success of all students, Coventry University serves a high proportion of first-generation, mature, and commuter students for whom a sense of belonging and connection with the learning community is equally essential for academic success.
Coventry’s existing VLE, Moodle, acted primarily as a repository for course materials (e.g. slides and video lectures), which resulted in very limited interaction between students, their peers, and educators, and failed to foster any real sense of community. Provost Ian Dunn was looking to replace Moodle with a community-first learning experience that would truly engage learners, facilitate meaningful connection, and improve students’ likelihood to succeed—so he turned to Aula and kicked off a pilot in the academic year 2018/2019.
For the pilot, Coventry migrated 26 modules from Moodle to Aula and compared student satisfaction, sense of community, and engagement across the two learning experiences.
After just one semester, 3 out of 4 students reported that Aula easily connected them to their learning community— a fact that becomes all the more impressive when you compare it to the JISC benchmark of only 41% of students reporting they feel connected through the VLE.
“With Moodle, professors just uploaded course documents. Aula offers a more interactive experience that improves our ability to learn: it gave us more engaging ways of learning and connecting with professors.”
“Aula is different from Moodle and email because it’s more like the apps I’m used to using every day. It’s easier to connect with people and if feels less daunting to use… I’d say Aula fits more with what I thought my university experience would be like.”
The impressive results and positive feedback from both students and educators gave Coventry’s leadership the confidence to pursue a larger implementation.
“The feedback we received from students and educators confirmed our concerns about the VLE. With Aula, the potential was very clear, very quickly: it was obvious from the pilot that we needed to pursue its impact at a greater scale.”
Following the initial success, Coventry began to scale up their Aula implementation just as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down in-person learning.
As educators across the globe scrambled to take their modules online, the staff at Coventry were already well-positioned to deliver a truly engaging digital learning experience. While many of the 100 modules Aula transformed for the spring cohort (the first to be delivered post-pandemic) were led by educators who had never taught online, the results were overwhelmingly positive:
Despite it being their first time delivering modules online, many educators also received positive course evaluations and overwhelmingly supportive feedback from their students.
On average, it can take an educator about 80 hours to design and build a highly engaging digital learning experience—and that’s time most educators just don’t have. Aula’s combination of easy-to-use technology with evidence-informed learning design enables them to create highly engaging learning experiences in around just 8 hours.
With pressure to move more modules online faster in order to support students during the pandemic, Aula’s team of expert learning designers worked one-to-one with Coventry’s educators in the transformation of their modules, guiding the shift from a content-first to a community-first approach to digital learning.
While the educators set the vision for their module and retained control over the curriculum, Aula’s learning designers brought expertise in flexible learning and did the time-consuming work of structuring the learning journey. This included migrating content from Moodle, planning for synchronous and asynchronous learning, incorporating purposeful interaction and opportunities for feedback, and building the journey into the platform.
"The entire process has taken me far less time than it would if I had been doing it alone. I feel confident in the delivery ahead of me, and my module will surely have a better community, and more active learning as a result."
The Aula scale-up continued throughout the summer: between June and August, Aula’s learning designers transformed 1200 modules into community-first learning experiences for the Autumn semester.
At the start of the 2020/2021 academic year, the rollout allowed Coventry to extend Aula to its entire student body of 40,000 learners across 6 locations.
As the UK re-entered lockdown in January 2021 and face-to-face delivery was suspended again, Coventry’s decision also ensured that staff and students would not experience additional disruption and could continue the learning journey together.
Aula is supporting us to deliver the learning experience we’ve been aiming to achieve. The active learning approaches in these community-driven courses are positively impacting the retention and satisfaction of our 40,000 students.
Ian Dunn speaks with Anders Krohn (Aula CEO) about the future of the learning experience at Coventry University