The University of Sussex
Case Study

Improving student connection, engagement and wellbeing

The University of Sussex was one of three HE institutions to become the first Enlitened partners, adopting the platform in February 2019. Following the success of the initial pilot study, Sussex rolled out Enlitened to all foundation and 1st years from September 2019.

We caught up with Professor Kelly Coate, PVC for Education and Students at the University of Sussex. Kelly spoke to us about Sussex’s experience of Enlitened to date, as well as their aspirations for the future with Enlitened as a core part of university life.


Why did Sussex need Enlitened?

“I heard about Enlitened right at the very beginning, before it had even been created.”, Kelly explains. “At this point, it was just an idea in Chris Newson’s head, and he approached us to see what we thought of it.”

Chris met with Kelly and Dr Tim Westlake, Chief Operating Officer at the University of Sussex, in July 2018. Kelly remembers: “Chris started speaking and we instantly saw ways that we could use Enlitened. Chris asked for our feedback and we said that the platform would need to help three things: student connection, engagement and wellbeing. If it could do this, we’d be sold.”

“Enlitened have been so open and really taken the time to ask questions to check what they’re doing is right and working for us and our students.”

Professor Kelly Coate, PVC for Education and Students, University of Sussex

To deliver tailored support to students’ phones

Kelly says: “In that initial meeting with Chris, Tim and I spoke about the potential for Enlitened if the platform could help students understand their experiences and manage some of the challenges.”

This is a core feature of the student app, with students receiving personalised articles and videos to support them, based on their answers to questions about their wellbeing and university experience.

To connect with students

A crucial motivation for Sussex to implement Enlitened was so that the university could improve its connection with students. Kelly provides some background to this: “Through the NSS, only about half of our students say they feel part of a community. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that! Especially because we have a campus environment so there’s a physical community, but this isn’t consistent with how the students feel.”

Kelly set about talking to students to try and find out what was lacking. It became clear that a key contributor was the fact that there’s a lot of flexibility for student choice when it comes to the modules they study. As a result, two students could study the same subject, yet be on completely different learning pathways.

“The thing about this is that every time they go into a new class, they don’t know anyone else. And this was happening time and time again”, says Kelly. “Enlitened gives us a way to help students feel connected and part of a community. Not only that, but the students also get tailored advice, which is really beneficial.”

“Course reps struggle to get feedback from students, so this is a way to help with that.”

Student at the University of Sussex

To amplify the student voice

“The ideas functionality gives us an accurate sense of what’s concerning the students in real-time”, says Kelly. This is key, since another reason that Sussex wanted Enlitened was to improve the volume of student feedback that the university receives.

Kelly explains: “We have struggled to get good feedback from students using traditional methods. Our end of module evaluations, for instance, are sometimes getting only around 3% of students participating. We hoped Enlitened would give us a way to collect more data than we have from other tools, as well as give us the opportunity to do more with it.”

“I have found it a useful way to submit my ideas for improvements, as I didn’t really know where I could go and before, I didn’t really feel like my suggestions would be taken seriously or supported by other people.”

Student at the University of Sussex

To provide real-time student experience and wellbeing insights

The wealth of real-time data collected through the Enlitened app and displayed in the university’s customisable dashboard has greatly improved Sussex’s visibility of how students are feeling: “Enlitened has given us better student feedback, as well as the ability to get a real-time sense of where students are at and what they’re thinking about.”

Not only can Sussex now see anonymised student engagement and wellbeing insights in real-time, but they can also easily analyse and segment the data. This enables the university to drill down and understand how the student experience varies between different groups of students.

“The data gives us the ability to better identify and understand patterns. For example, we can see areas where there are unhappy students and understand why and what we can do to help.”

Professor Kelly Coate, PVC for Education and Students, University of Sussex

Sussex pilot study in numbers


questions answered by students
ideas submitted by students
student votes in support of those ideas

“After we got such great feedback from the pilot study, it was like ‘why would we stop this?’. Once we started to get the feedback and we could see the high levels of engagement, it became such an easy sell for everyone else. All of the Heads of Schools thought the results were awesome.”

Professor Kelly Coate, PVC for Education and Students, University of Sussex

The impact of Enlitened at Sussex

Sussex aren’t too far into their Enlitened journey yet, but the university has already seen significant impact from the platform. Here are some examples of how Enlitened has helped Sussex better connect with its students and take steps to improve the student experience.

Connecting with students

Kelly explains: “We had spent time researching outdoor furniture in order to increase the amount of outdoor study space on campus and had just purchased some as a result of this. Then, one of the ideas we got in Enlitened was for more outdoor study spaces. Coincidentally, this was something that we were focusing on, but we hadn’t communicated it to students yet.

So, in this case, Enlitened was both the perfect tool for the student to tell us what they wanted, and it was also the best way for us to fill the students in on what we were doing. Overall, it was great to see that we were aligned with our students and to be able to recognise that we just hadn’t got the communication right yet.”

“Enlitened was both the perfect tool for the student to tell us what they wanted, and it was also the best way for us to fill the students in on what we were doing.”

Professor Kelly Coate, PVC for Education and Students, University of Sussex

Enhancing the learning experience for all

A student with dyslexia used Enlitened to ask if their school could avoid using double negatives in exam questions, since they can make understanding questions harder. The school have now factored this into exam papers and is working to ensure that all future assessments are accessible for all students.

Acting quickly to improve student life

One idea submitted through Enlitened, which gained support from other students, was for all teaching sessions to finish at 10 minutes to the hour. This would ensure students have enough time to get to their next session without being late. Following input from student reps, staff were reminded about this at the School Board of Study.

“I think the input to the university has been great and it’s nice to see that they’re taking ideas onboard. It’s such an easy, direct way of communicating with them.”

Student at the University of Sussex

What’s next for Sussex and Enlitened?

Kelly has big plans for Enlitened at Sussex. Going forwards, her vision is for the platform to become more and more a part of everyday university life at Sussex.

“There is huge potential for us to understand the student population in a much more informative way to how we have been previously. I also believe Enlitened is the right tool to help us, as a university, get better at interpreting and learning from the data that we get from students in order to make continuous positive changes to their experience and wellbeing.”

Professor Kelly Coate, PVC for Education and Students, University of Sussex

For Kelly’s plans for Enlitened to be successful, Sussex are currently busy working in partnership with Enlitened to maximise its userbase at Sussex and maintain high levels of student engagement with the app. Watch this space!

Interested in finding out what Enlitened can do for your university? Get in touch today.