Oct 19 2011

PAR: Analytics Technique Measures Online Learning Outcomes

Group headed by American Public University System and WCET aims to uncover trends in online learning.

Analytics is the tool of choice in a new study that examines trends in the learning outcomes of more than 400,000 U.S. online college students.

Dr. Phil Ice, vice president for research and development at the American Public University System, headed up the study, known as the Predictive Analytics Reporting (PAR) Framework.

PAR is a project of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET).

The study, which received support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, explores the patterns derived from considering six distinct data sets (from six different colleges) as a single, unified sample. PAR has focused primarily on the retention rates and academic performance of U.S. online students, ages 26 and under. The group will release its findings next week at the WCET 2011 Conference in Denver, Colo.

“By identifying patterns of performance, we believe we can create an approach to applying predictive analytics in practice that will help practitioners and students alike spot barriers to success before they become problems,” Ice says.

Although PAR is separate from the EDUCUASE analytics initiative, Ice says the two groups can easily complement one another.

“The American Public University System looks forward to the EDUCAUSE initiative to advance analytics at U.S. colleges and universities,” Ice says.

“Data and benchmarking have been a hallmark of our own measurement of student outcomes and desire to support high graduation rates among our students. With the WCET–funded and coordinated program, of which I am the program lead, we see great opportunity for sharing information, findings and exploring meaningful areas of synergies.”

Ice will discuss the PAR Framework at EDUCAUSE on Friday, Oct. 21.

For more coverage on EDUCAUSE 2011, visit our EDUCAUSE 2011 Coverage page.