An online student engagement platform developed by a startup that was developed through a Jisc edtech competition has been recognised as the technological or digital innovation of 2019 at the Times Higher Education Awards.
Unitu was developed by a team which took part in the 2014 Summer of Student Innovation (SOSI) and went on to be one of the first startups assessed under Jisc’s new step up programme. The Unitu team was led by led by Anish Bagga and born out of his own student experience, which included frustrations that his voice and those of his fellow students were not being heard.
The platform is designed to give the university access to the “authentic” student voice because the filtering effect of traditional feedback mechanisms can distort or misrepresent the student experience. The technology also allows students who are hard to reach or do not engage through traditional channels to be heard.
Some 14,000 students at Swansea now have access to Unitu, which was rolled out in 2017-18. In the first year, there were more than 70,000 interactions. The university says the platform has already led to changes in learning and teaching, sustainable transport and catering, and has also provided a way of celebrating success and good practice.
The judges praised Unitu for revolutionising “the way the university engages with learners about key issues, such as well-being and transport”. They added: “Unitu itself is an edtech startup product that has been significantly enhanced in response to feedback from the university.”
Unitu was developed in partnership with Swansea and the university credits this close working relationship with the Unitu team as key to the success of the tool. When the platform was nominated for the award, Sophie Leslie, student partnership and feedback development officer at Swansea, told Jisc the university would happily work with similar small edtechs in the future as a result of this work.
Jisc’s director of edtech, Andy McGregor, said:
“I was delighted to see Swansea University and Unitu win the THE award. Jisc has worked with Unitu since the early days of the company and we have seen Anish and his team build a great product by caring deeply about improving the student experience through ensuring student voices are heard.
“Edtech startups are an underused source of innovation for universities and colleges in the UK. That is why we have introduced the step up programme - to help people working to improve education and research find the most promising start-ups and make it a little bit easier to procure their services.
“In 2020, the step up scheme will be publishing research and putting on events to familiarise education professionals with the edtech start-ups and how they can be used to help address the challenges we face in education and research. Swansea’s work with Unitu is a great example of the value they add.”