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Author's profile photo Silke Jakobi

Assessing students’ mood with a smart real-time barometer

Recently, I read a blog about “Machine learning meets employee engagement” and how a new cloud application (SAP Work-Life) helps managers and employees to improve their health and well-being. The aim of the development team was to create a smart, real-time ‘mood barometer’ to give not only managers, but employees themselves, insight into opportunities to improve health, well-being and engagement. (Find out more:

The SAP work-life application provides the employees the opportunity to continuously assess their working environment. The employee selects what is most important for them, prioritizes it based on their personal needs, and rates their satisfaction. They get immediate recommendations about healthy habits and company support. The more input the app receives the more it learns as it is utilizing machine learning capabilities. By using predictive analytics, the app constantly improves recommendations based on the new data it receives from employee self-assessments.

I immediately thought this is a great application, and wouldn’t it be great to provide such an application to students?

A university or college could use a smart real-time barometer to learn more about student life, their experience and engagement at the institution, not to mention it could evaluate teaching quality and improve student success and completion.

Today student surveys are quite ineffective because usually that data is collected when a student graduates – too late to make a difference then. Hence such a real-time barometer would be so much better and it is not paper-based or limited to the survey questions.

So, the challenge is providing a mood barometer, while protecting student interests and ensuring data security!

It has to be clear that the student is put in the center and that it is all about what students need and want! It could revolutionize how an institution is listening to and interacting with their students!

Every student is unique and prioritize differently. 

Most students follow a program of study – on campus or online – with the objective to graduate successfully and to be prepared for the world of work. To understand what students need and want, universities need a 360 degree view of the students’ life at the institution.

Student life is influenced by a myriad of factors, whether on-campus or online. These factors can be related to sports offer, food quality, university facilities, quality and updates of teaching and learning, etc. If universities understand student needs in real-time they could take immediate action with regards to particular activities to improve a students’ mood or experience at the institution.

Similar to the Work-Life application, students would have a single app where they can select the areas they would like to focus on during their time at the university. Whether this is related to teaching, sports, facilities in general or other factors at the institution, students should be able to maintain, prioritize and rate their satisfaction for their focus areas. Students could get immediate recommendations, e.g. which learning content leads to the best results, or which sports class improves body mass index (BMI). Other examples could be during course selection when a student is searching for courses based on criteria such as program requirements, best ranked teacher, own results etc. Based on these entries of data the app could immediately recommend further courses or events which could be best for the student. Moreover, the app could include data which student enters during assessments such as “this course satisfies my interest” or “this course is good preparation for the future” “this online course allows perfect collaboration with attendees”. At the same time, the university could learn about open demands, not satisfied demands or surplus.

How can the university get this precise and detailed data?

The app would need to be fed by all different data sources which stores student related data, and which may influence student’s experience at campus and student’s mood. For example, data from the student information system (SIS), learning management system (LMS), library system, etc. would be included. In addition, the app would need further feeds with the assessments, students enter continuously more or less automatically without big efforts. It could include gamification to animate student feeding the app, and the more data and self-assessments are entered, the more the app would learn. Students should be able to assess their university life experience as often as they like. Students could assess university related criteria by choosing them from a broad catalog and should be able to run the assessment as often as they like.

The app could also be linked to other apps such as traffic apps and include questions such as “how was your journey to university today?” Such assessments could be considered to improve traffic and access to campus. Another idea is related to student’s wellbeing and sustainability on campus. Students could assess the temperature and light experience at university, when entering a lecture or seminar room. A resulting recommendation for the student could be, “temperature in this room is cold, consider wearing a sweater”. University could consider different regulations of temperature and save energy. Another use could be to assess waiting time for an appointment which would help to improve the time management for the student.

To collect student related data from several sources, to analyze it with the aim to improve student  success and completion is understood as student and learning analytics and supported by SAP Student Activity Hub. (Find out more: SAP Student Activity Hub)

However, this app would go a step further as it is including student’s assessment about student’s complete experience. Leveraging machine learning it could really be ‘a smart real-time experience (mood) barometer’.

Wouldn’t it be great to know what students think about their university life? And wouldn’t it be smart if they could directly influence their university life?

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      Author's profile photo Michelle Crapo
      Michelle Crapo

      I smile as I read this.  My son started college a couple years ago.   His major complaint was my major complaint was well....   Just about everyone I talked to main complaint.   Some of us don't know what we want to do when we start college and that is fine.   However, some of us do and to do things like going bowling should not be part of our curriculum.   My son has taking so many courses like that.  We all do the first two years.   Wouldn't it be cool to really start learning in our area of interest from day one.   Yes, I still get worked up about this even - well - if it was a long time ago.   I graduated in 1994, and it seems like things are sort of the same.  Except for some of the strange things that I hear about - I won't go into that.

      Know the answer we all will always receive.   You need to be well rounded.

      So with that said do you think anything - assessing students mood - will be taken seriously?   I highly doubt it.  Call me cynical - because I am about this.

      Anyway - it does raise some issues and some other ways of thinking.   I hope at some point students will be heard.  You know the smart students the ones that think exactly like me.  <That last sentence was not serious.>


      Author's profile photo Silke Jakobi
      Silke Jakobi
      Blog Post Author


      thanks for your comment. Even if I studied in Germany at a very small University I feel the same and could complain about the same.

      Point is that students enter in x systems their opinion, mood, feelings and are asked for evaluation; in other words they continuously assess their experience about education. But today this data is not used to improve education. Maybe it is naive but I do hope that some universities listen to their students and take it seriously.



      Author's profile photo Michelle Crapo
      Michelle Crapo

      I truly hope they are listened to.   I believe a lot of the students do know what they want.   Contrary to popular opinion.

      Yes there moods and feelings could be interesting.     I think there would be a wide range.   I'm thinking WAY back to my college days.   Not only could the data drive what the college students are thinking / feeling, it could show how many people drop out of a class.  Why?   How many go to classes daily vs. the ones that only go sometimes.   Tying the feelings/moods to the other easier data could be VERY interesting.

      All of this is very exciting.   We live in an amazing time.  Other discussions that I was involved in talked about why less students are graduating with a STEM degree.   Perhaps this would ignite more interest.


      Author's profile photo Esther Sheen
      Esther Sheen

      That is an interesting idea. It is so great to have such people as you who think about it. I believe that your idea will help both students and their teachers. Mostly students are in a such age that they have a lot of problems and issues, so knowing what is going on in their mind would be very useful.