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Kolmio – safeguarding students and transforming teaching

The well-being of students is of critical importance to universities and a poor record of attendance can be a key indicator of a dangerous downward spiral. Measured attendance is already a legal requirement for non-EU students and professional courses, however traditional methods of confirming students’ presence at lectures are often prohibitively expensive and impractical.

Kolmio, a new mobile application co-created by a medical student at the University of Southampton, is an innovative solution for recording attendance that can also provide valuable feedback on teaching quality.

The app is a powerful tool for protecting student welfare by enabling well-informed pastoral care that can potentially lower dropout rates on courses. Investment in the technology can therefore also signal a substantial saving for universities in lost tuition fees.

“Current methods for measuring attendance are incredibly poor,” Southampton’s Ed Des Clayes explains. “Paper registers waste valuable teaching time, are easily lost and require arduous manual entry. Swipe cards are also expensive to install in every teaching room and require constant maintenance. They are also highly prone to fraudulent entries for attendance as it only requires a student to lend someone their card.”

Kolmio’s solution syncs to students’ individual timetables and verifies their presence using a number of unique markers. Users must log in with their university credentials and input personal biometric data such as fingerprint of face ID, before then recording their location through either a GPS snapshot or a link to a WiFi router.

The technology’s multi-step checks are more secure than current methods and offer a more efficient and sustainable model for recorded courses such as medical degrees.

“Measuring attendance is both essential to fulfilling a statutory duty and also vital for identifying students who are at risk of dropping out or potentially suffering a crisis,” co-founder James Haigh continues. “If an employee didn’t turn up to work then colleagues would want to know that they are okay. It shouldn’t be acceptable then that students can go for months before anyone notices they are not attending lectures.”

Student mental health issues are said to have risen five-fold in the last decade and student suicide rates now above non-students for the first time. A drop in attendance can be the first sign that a student is struggling.

“Our secure cloud platform automatically updates attendance in real-time and gives an alert to pastoral staff if a student’s attendance drops below a pre-determined level,” co-founder Lou Fargeot says. “This allows pastoral staff to get in contact with students and offer help to those who need it the most.”

There is a large potential financial cost to universities for not measuring attendance. With each first year student that drops out costing up to £27,000 in lost tuition fees, medium-sized universities are losing around a million pounds of vital income per year.

Students can also use Kolmio to give constructive feedback on sessions which in turn helps improve teaching and learning.

“Student feedback has been shown in large studies to be an incredibly useful tool,” Ed says. “However, this incredibly helpful feedback is currently being lost in every session. Kolmio allows students to play a greater role in shaping their learning environment and allows teachers to gain an invaluable insight into the student experience of their teaching. This strengthens the student-teacher relationship.”

Kolmio has been established with a scalable Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) user licensing model. The co-founders have completed a beta version of the product and have trials in place to demonstrate the technology in the new academic year.

“We are looking to form partnerships with investors who have a background in EdTech and have knowledge of how to quickly scale a company and operate in foreign markets, particularly the US university sector,” Ed explains. “We would also like to hear from higher education leaders who are interested in running Kolmio on their campus.” You can get in touch with the Kolmio team through the contact form on this page.

Kolmio’s business model taps in to recent advances in mobile and internet infrastructure. “It has only been within the last few years that phone technology and campus WiFi penetration has reached the level that an app-based solution is possible,” James says. “Our solution is also timely as there has been a recent cultural shift. People are used to using location-based apps like Instagram and Facebook. A number of companies, including those in the health and distribution sector, are already using phones’ GPS data to monitor their employees’ location.”

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Kolmio is a mobile application that can reduce student dropout rates, save universities hundreds of thousands of pounds each year and dramatically improve teaching. Students use the app to register their attendance at lectures and submit feedback on teaching. The startup, which can be used as a powerful tool for monitoring student welfare, has been co-founded by Southampton medical student Ed Des Clayes.

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