Q&A: Kandice Porter Explains How Data Analytics Helped Failure Rates Plummet

The introduction of a new online module at Kennesaw State University uses data analytics to help students succeed.

Teaching styles vary by professor, but all teachers want to see their students succeed. At Kennesaw State University, Kandice Porter, the chair of the school’s Department of Health Promotion and Physical Education, noticed particularly high dropout and failure rates among students in KSU’s WELL 1000 course, an introductory-level online class.

In response, Porter, in partnership with education-analytics firm Perceivant, introduced an interactive, web-based system that housed course materials online and offered educators tools to better engage students in the class. 

Over a subsequent two-year period, KSU reported a 48 percent drop in dropout and failure rates in the class. Porter spoke with EdTech about how KSU implemented the new system and how offering these tools helped students succeed. 

MORE FROM EDTECH: Read more on how higher education experts believe institutions should use data analytics!

EDTECH: What was the reason KSU decided to add management and data analysis tools to the online module for this course?

PORTER: At KSU, we offer a holistic health course that is focused on goal-setting, with a semester-long project that builds on student self-assessments and reflections for them to really be able to establish healthy behaviors. For that reason, we wanted the course to have a number of progressions, not only in terms of the content, but as students would reflect on where they are now and where they are moving throughout the course.

What we found is students came to KSU without the self-management skills that they needed to do well, particularly in an online environment. We wanted to create a way to kind of check those students who are struggling early on and engage them in a way that we can maintain their progress throughout the semester, so they wouldn't fall behind and get to a point where it really wasn't feasible for them to be successful in the course. 

EDTECH: What specifically about the new data analysis tools made it so successful?

PORTER: Well, one of the things we did is we created key points to identify what key tasks were necessary for students to be successful in the course. For example, if they had not done certain assignments or even bought a textbook or logged in to the course by a certain point, then the likelihood of them being successful was greatly reduced. 

So, we said, we want to have data on how many hours per week our students are spending to get A’s in the class as opposed B’s, C’s and D’s, and we want to share that information with our students. Now there is a check that says to students not only that they have an assignment to do, but students who do well on this first healthy-living module are 50 percent more likely to earn an A in this course than students who turned it in late or don't put an adequate amount of time and effort into submission. 

MORE FROM EDTECH: Read more on how universities can use education technology to improve student retention!

EDTECH: How has this program helped the professors at KSU, and why have you shared it directly with students?

PORTER: I think all of this information is very helpful for the instructors, and it would be great if each of us had the time and the energy to do this with all of our classes. 

But we have 35 different faculty members who teach this course, and they're dealing with large sections of 50-plus students. Some of them are also part-time faculty members and they may not have the time to identify all those students who are at risk of not being successful in the course early on. 

So, having this data come to students and having an automatic trigger happening without any kind of effort on their part was very helpful in the sense that it alleviated some of the burden put on professors, so they could focus on grading and giving timely feedback on assignments rather than trying to say, “Hey, you still haven't logged in to your textbook.”

EDTECH: After seeing success with this course, what is KSU’s plan for introducing accessible data analytics into future online programs?

PORTER: The biggest reduction has been in the dropout and failure rates in our online courses. And what we have seen in the past is students generally think an online course should be self-paced, and this is certainly not self-paced.

Right now, we are working on the Well 1000 course, as well as creating a KSU textbook for our students so they know exactly what campus resources are available to them. Once we have that complete, we might be moving into broadening this program into other courses. I really like the way that we are able to identify students early in this course and help them to get on track to be successful, and I think that could be expanded to other classes at KSU.

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Oct 08 2018

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