The University of Florida already has impressive graduation rates. Nearly all of its freshman, 97 percent, stick around for a second year, and almost 87 percent finish with a degree within six years. However, in a quest to become a top five university, UF recently launched a data analytics program designed to identify students at risk of dropping out or prolonging their studies.
The COMPASS program (short for Campus-wide Modernization Program to Advance Student Services) incorporates data analytics and customizable dashboards that every campus stakeholder — deans, faculty, students, living life coaches and academic advisers — can access in a single click. The graphics-driven analytics display reflects a range of data about students and their academic endeavors. UF launched COMPASS in October 2018 on the heels of an Oracle PeopleSoft integration.
“What this does is give these support personnel who play an important role in the life of all students — and particularly those students who are needing some direction — more information,” says Andy McCollough, associate provost for teaching and technology and a professor of finance. “It keeps them up to date so they can be proactive in helping these students achieve their academic goals and then directing them in ways that will be consistent with their success.”
For example, advisers can check the real-time Student Quick View dashboard for alerts about students who may have failed a test, missed too many classes or dropped a course. An adviser can then send an instant notification to the student via email or text, asking them for a face-to-face meeting.
University Advisors Use Dashboard to Make Informed Recommendations
Advisers, in turn, receive notification about students’ financial needs. They then collaborate with financial aid staff on potential solutions, says McCollough, who adds that the process is now much more proactive.
“Rather than sitting in the finance office and waiting for the students to come in to apply, we’re reaching out and saying, ‘Look, if you’ve got a problem here that is based on your ability to maintain yourself while you finish your academic career, we are here to help,’” he says.
Advisers are also looking for red flags that might signal a personal issue with which a student may need help, such as reports to resident advisers or the housing office. That can be especially important at universities with large enrollments (UF has more than 35,000 students), which some students find overwhelming.
While it’s too soon to see tangible changes in graduation or retention rates, COMPASS is giving UF a reputational boost, McCollough says. And while that shouldn’t be the impetus for a data analytics program, he says, there is a correlation between an institution’s public profile and its students’ success.
“When those metrics are less than desirable, it’s an early warning that the university’s reputation ultimately will be less than desirable,” he says.
To learn more about how universities are using data dashboards to help students succeed, check out "Georgia State Tackles Racial Disparities with Data-Driven Academic Support."