Segmented Services


Schools, colleges and universities have always held a large volume of data on their students such as their contact details, qualifications held, current programmes of study, learning support needs, intended destinations and much more. Typically, these datasets have been used in isolation to support discrete functions and activities to support learners as they progress through their studies. The growing maturity of web based services over the last fifteen or more years has enabled educational establishments to use these datasets to deliver a number of targeted online services to each student such as links to courses being studied, library, email and online storage accounts and access to assessment records.

Online services within the education sector will be tailoured so that institutions can deliver a unique blend of services to meet the needs and requirements of individual students

As the use of these datasets and services matures the education sector will begin to participate in a broader development programme that will enable students to access services that are not currently widespread on student home pages, virtual learning environments, learning platforms and learner management systems. The use of these datasets will become central in delivering a unique blend of services that are tailored specifically to meet the needs and requirements of individual students.


Information or services on the student home page will increasingly be represented to students in order to illicit certain desired responses, actions or behaviours. For instance, a push notification may alert students about a submission date for a forthcoming assignment and thereby increase the number of assignments that are handed in on time; a news article on university applications will prompt more students to enquire about university places or an article which includes information regarding the dates and times of forthcoming maths and English workshops will prompt more students to attend these workshops to further their studies. The practice of presenting targeted and segmented information to illicit desired behaviours is not new. We only have to look at any retail website for examples.

Students expect that their institution's home page responds not only to the device that they are using but also to multiple contexts

Segmenting information and services in this manner should not be taken lightly. First and foremost from the moment schools, colleges and universities create a managed profile for their students, they as the website owners are making assumptions about which content to present to which student or profile. If they get this right it can be a very powerful way of segmenting their audience and ensuring that the most appropriate content is displayed to individual students. If they get it wrong they could have sensitive content being presented to the wrong students or a student's experience becomes so poor that it turns them away from your online platform. [1] At Bolton College the student home page has been created so that it is closely integrated to the College's management information system which is the College's primary repository for student records. This has enabled the College to design online services for the student home page which correlate precisely to each student's programme of study, timetable, intended destination routes and more.

Secondly, support teams and individuals who provide content to the student home page can no longer author a single script for the site. Unique scripts will need to be regularly authored for each student profile that have been designated by the school, college or university. The ability to keep scripts current, timely and relevant will play an important role in ensuring that students regularly interact with the student home page. Colleagues across Bolton College regularly author articles for a wide range of student groups. Over the next few years the growing breadth and depth of our database articles will ensure that all our students experience a meaningful and engaging experience on the student home page.

Thirdly, whilst every student is presented with information on the student home page that matches their individual needs and requirements the institution loses sight of what the whole student body sees. Until recently, the school, college or university published a single set of information, advice and guidance notes to students or they posted a single set of news articles that where visible to the entire student body. However, with the advent of segmented onlines services each student sees a unique set of information, content and services on their web browser. Website administrators can resolve this issue quite easily by providing teachers and tutors with a link (via the institution's learner management system) to each student's view of the student home page. At Bolton College such a solution was put into place for teachers, tutors and support staff.

And fourthly, these segmented services should be device agnostic; thereby ensuring that students experience a rich, vibrant and tailoured service regardless of the device being used. Today, students expect that their institution's home page responds not only to the device that they are using but also to multiple contexts such as their location on the campus, the time of day-week-term-year, what they have already read on the site and the numerous events that are happening in real time around the campus. If segmentation is used in this manner schools, colleges and universities can provide a meangingful and engaging experience to every student, in every moment and on every device. [2] At Bolton College contextual information and news articles are already being presented to each student profile.

Online content and services must be viewed as extensions to the classroom

Until recently most schools, colleges and universities presented a non-personalised or homogenous website to their students. These websites typically presented the same content to all students regardless of their profile, personal preferences or their previous browsing history on the institution's student home page. Students would typically navigate, search and extract information from the site. It can be argued that such websites are pull orientated as they require the student to select an item before it is presented to them. Equally if they use the search facility they are pulling content based on their own search criteria. [2] However, this approach in managing online content and services contradicts the belief that schools and colleges have in providing a truly differentiated support model for their students. For instance, in the classroom teachers are encouraged to differentiate their teaching and assessment methods to support the needs and requirements of each of their students. Whereas, a homogenous website which does not differentiate between individual students tends to ignore this pedagogic approach. This is an important factor to consider if website administrators are to view online content and services as an extension to the classroom.

Bolton College's underlying strategy is to ensure that our online services engage and enrich the lives of every student whilst they attend the College. The College's digital intervention strategy has underpinned the development of the College's student home; a strategy that actively seeks to strengthen the relationship between students, teachers and support staff via the student home page. [3]



  1. Enterprise Content Management:
  2. Fast Company - Design:
  3. Michael Brian Schiffer, Technological Perspectives on Behavioural Change, 1992.

    The relationship between technology and behavioural change is a field that is often ignored by educationalists. Despite its neglect, this area of study offers an exciting opportunity to explain the impact of technology on teaching and learning. Furthermore, it enables educationalists to design and take advantage of digital intervention strategies to derive positive behavioural change in teachers and students. I define behaviour as any action, conduct and interaction that supports or deflects from teaching and learning. The work of the Anthropologist Michael Brian Schiffer is not automatically associated with education technology, but his ground breaking work on the relationship between human behaviour and artifacts is unique and one which can provide insight into how education technology can influence positive behavioural change in teachers and students alike.

    The relationship between learners and the technology that surrounds them should not be underestimated. 'Technology is not a behavioural phenomenon; rather it responds to (and affects) virtually all other human behaviours,’ [3] so it is surprising to learn that the interdependence of behaviour and education technologies has never been studied intensively. Through Michael Schiffer's work we can argue that behavioural change in an education setting can be better explained if we focus on the nexus of behaviour and technology in the context of all activities associated with teaching and learning. However, there is little known about which specific components of digital intervention can best facilitate the promotion of positive behavioural change in teachers and students. Further research into this field would be welcomed by the education sector.