Feb 23 2018

Tech Powers Real-Time, Personalized Feedback that Promotes Student Success

Study finds text messages tailored to students’ needs boost retention.

College campuses are often a hotbed for innovation aimed at promoting student success. However, sometimes a simple text message is all it takes to point a struggling student in the right direction.

A trial conducted last summer by Jobs for the Future and Persistence Plus found that community college students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields were 10 percent more likely to stay on track in school if they received personalized text messages that nudged them along.

As part of the trial including nearly 2,000 students at four community colleges, students received personalized text message “nudges” that they said helped them do everything from manage time more efficiently to access financial aid renewal resources.

JFF and Persistence Plus chose STEM majors in particular because attrition rates have been so high in the fields. Community colleges are providing more than half of all postsecondary STEM degrees, according to a study by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, but a 2013 study by the Education Department and National Center for Education Statistics found that more than two-thirds of associate degree candidates in STEM majors don’t complete their degrees.

“Through the use of personal, contextualized communications via text messages, students are more empowered to complete their degrees, colleges experience higher success rates and STEM employers ultimately benefit with a more skilled workforce,” says Maria Flynn, president and CEO of JFF, in the press release.

Facilitating this kind of real-time help is also a big reason why many universities have developed personalized student success initiatives that rely on data to inform interventions. As more universities use data to innovate advising practices, assistance like these text message nudges become more feasible.

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Data Powers Real-Time Feedback that Empowers Students

At Temple University’s Fox School of Business, EdTech reports that university leaders have used Microsoft Power BI to create a new kind of report card. Rather than dishing out grades a few times a semester, educators instead access a real-time dashboard to help students cultivate the skills they’ll need to succeed in the workforce.

These real-time insights also help students have more engaging time with advisers to determine the classes they need to become more well-rounded. Using data also helps advisers and educators set up predictive models that allow them to assist students faster than ever before. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas uses data analytics to flag students who are at risk of failing courses so that instructors can step in.

“Typically, the goal is to intervene and get in front of students digitally before they start to perform poorly on tests,” says Matthew Bernacki, an assistant professor of educational psychology at UNLV, in the EdTech article.

In general, real-time feedback, whether it is facilitated through technology or not, can boost personalized learning in the classroom and foster student-teacher communication.

“Real-time feedback makes it much easier to have a meaningful student-professor relationship because you know right away if students are understanding course material or enjoying the content,” Laura McClelland writes in a Top Hat blog.

Thanks to data analytics programs and cloud apps, such as Google Docs, technology will continue to make real-time interventions and feedback easier for those in higher ed.

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