Acer and UTS student monitoring trial expands to two more schools

The pair also opened a new research lab that uses gaming technology.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Acer announced on Monday that they would expand their student monitoring trial which uses laptops to collect data on the hand gestures, eye movements, as well as mouse, keyboard, and digital pen movements of students.

The laptop-based project, called the UTS x Acer Leaner Attention Analytics Pilot Program, was created with the aim of providing a better understanding of students' learning behaviours through analysing the movements of students.

Since being unveiled back in April, the pilot technology has collected over 500 hours of student learning data to create student profiles. These profiles contain a summary of student engagement, allows for students' data to be compared, and also has individual examination and historical data review features.

The current learning data is comprised of information from 100 students at UTS and John Paul College, Coffs Harbour. According to UTS, all data that has been collected is anonymised and any sensitive data has been removed. 

With initial testing complete, the pilot will now be expanded to two more independent high schools, one in Melbourne and Brisbane, respectively in the next year.

Fang Chen, professor and executive director of Data Science at UTS, said the student profiles would provide students with a personalised learning experience. She gave an example of how the collected data, such as the time that a student takes to complete a task -- which she said is an indicator of sufficiency levels for that particular task -- could allow teachers to be better informed when providing resources to students in need. 

"The progress of the pilot program to date has proved the concept and effectiveness of using digital technologies to understand student engagement patterns in real-time. This provides many possibilities to create innovative solutions for educators, students, and broad communities for effective online lifelong learning," Chen said.

She noted however, that the pilot technology is currently more focused on identifying trends and relevant points of data for indicating whether a student needs help rather than being a provider of additional resources. 

See also: Victorian government pushes back on in-classroom surveillance

UTS and Acer on Monday also unveiled a research lab located at the university's city campus. The lab, called the UTS Acer Predator Analytics Lab, will provide academics access to technologies that can power research and development linked to virtual and augmented reality, high-performance computing, as well as data analytics and visualisation.

It will be a collaborative workspace, UTS said, where academics will have access to devices from Acer's Predator Gaming brand. The space contains Acer's Orion 9000, Nitro 5, Predator G6 desktops and laptops, as well as its Thronos gaming chairs.

Last year, the university opened its Tech Lab, which was built for exploring areas such as civil and environmental engineering, mechanical and mechatronic engineering, software, and electrical and data engineering.

Since its opening, UTS Tech Lab has welcomed organisations such as Sydney Water, which is working with the facility in robotics and smart sensing in pipelines, as well as Nokia, which is running training courses out of the facility.

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