OnTask: what is it and why should you be using it?
OnTask is a software platform designed to improve the academic experience of students through the delivery of timely, personalised and actionable student feedback through email messages. The email messages are determined by expected evidence-based student behaviour, performance and characteristics from MyUni. The data that feeds into OnTask is from an Excel or CSV file downloaded from the LMS (or other sources), making it easily accessible for instructors. Instructors and educational designers can use the platform to connect large data sets about students with concrete and frequent actions to support their learning.
Messages can be shaped around:
• Reminders and prompts
• Advice about further help and resources
• Progress and feedback
The University of Adelaide carried out a pilot trial of OnTask in 2018 and found the software to have many benefits.
What are the advantages of using OnTask?
A personalised approach in sending messages
Placing a student’s name at the front of a message has been found to be a more likely way to gain the attention of students, instead of generalised ‘Hi All’ type announcements. During the pilot trial of OnTask, most course coordinators spoke about the ability to customise feedback for various situations and levels of performance. Being specific about exactly what action is recommended can be adjusted, to either address gaps and seek help, or extend learning further at the high end of a performance.
A way to offer targeted encouragement and constructive feedback
OnTask can be used to provide targeted constructive feedback to students at all of the different stages of their learning journey. During the pilot trial of OnTask, it was student themselves that flagged this feature as being highly valuable. When students feel supported, they are more engaged, and this can increase both performance and retention.
An easy to use communication tool to increase student engagement
Any means to increase communication between lecturers, tutors and students is regarded as useful. OnTask can be used as an additional tool to encourage student engagement and communication with lecturers. In the current context of diminishing attendance by students at face-to-face lectures on campus and courses with large class sizes, finding new ways to communication and engage with students is necessary. During the pilot trial of OnTask, it was found that students felt less inhibited about contacting their tutors and lecturers as the OnTask message acted as ‘permission’ to email and ask for help. OnTask allows for students to be more proactive about their learning and what they need, whether they are performing well or in need of extra support.
Who should be using OnTask?
OnTask is best suited to those instructors and academics with larger cohorts of students as there is a time investment in the planning phase of implementation. This initial time investment pays off during the semester when students are supported throughout the semester, especially during the times when instructors are time poor.
How can I start using OnTask?
Contact Learning Enhancement and Innovation and our team can help establish if OnTask is a good fit for your course. We will then work with you to set up your workflow automation for OnTask messages and plan your messaging. Our Learning Analytics team and the MyUni Support team offer ongoing support for OnTask throughout the semester.
Get in touch with Learning Enhancement and Innovation to discuss how OnTask could work for you.