Apr 13 2018
Data Analytics

Colleges Tap Data-Driven Insights to Boost Students’ Performance

Campus analytics programs help improve retention, grades and graduation rates.

Universities, under pressure to justify the cost and value of a degree, are stepping up their focus on student success initiatives that improve completion rates and speed time to graduation. Student success, in fact, came in as one of EDUCAUSE’s top IT issues for 2018.

Harnessing data to discover patterns and glean insights is key to guiding students along their educational journeys. More institutions are exploring technologies designed to help them predict when and where students might struggle — and to then take corrective action. 

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Three Ways to Use Analytics to Support Students

Three types of analytics help to facilitate success, as noted by the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research’s “2017 Trends and Technologies: Analytics” report. These include tools to plan and map out students’ educational plans, trigger interventions based on student behavior or faculty input, and track students’ progress toward degrees. Organizations such as Achieving the Dream, EDUCAUSE and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation work with institutions as they pursue analytics initiatives.

“Achieving the Dream has helped network colleges develop a deeper understanding of the student experience by building their capacity to collect, disaggregate, disseminate and interpret data,” says Karen Stout, president and CEO. “The insights that come from embracing data catalyze colleges’ efforts to improve completion and learning.” 

Data-Driven Insights Help Colleges Boost Grades and Graduation Rates

In partnership with Achieving the Dream, Texarkana College (a community college in Texas) used evidence-based decision-making to triple its three-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time students from 10 percent (for a 2008 cohort) to 33 percent (for a 2014 cohort). 

At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, efforts to leverage data began with a single course. Assistant Professor Matt Bernacki used Splunk Enterprise to analyze learning management system data, drawing connections between students’ activities in the LMS and their eventual course grades. 

That feedback helped many students who were in danger of earning a C grade or lower make adjustments to increase the likelihood of success. “Being able to build my own data sets on the fly has been very beneficial,” Bernacki says.


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