The university has seen a “huge cost savings related to publications, mailings, travel, and events,” he added, estimating savings of tens of thousands of dollars.

Concerning enrollment, SPSS helps Wichita identify at-risk students even before classes begin. Examining students’ courses and other data helps university staff ensure that those students are prepared, and “allows us to have higher retention, because we’re able to keep these students for a longer time,” Wright said.

“Data now is first and foremost in a budget discussion,” Wright said of how predictive analytics has changed the university’s administrative policies. “Data is no longer an afterthought. Data is now in the room where strategic planning is discussed.”

While Wichita has used predictive analytics to focus on recruitment and retention, Wright predicts that the practice will expand into the university’s financial practices, including financial auditing and forecasting.

“We can also use SPSS to develop alternative funding models, and these can be tested to information budget allocations before a decision is made—these would affect not only cost, but performance issues,” he said.

See also:

Special report: Smarter education

Analytics use boosts student retention

Ed-tech group to push for more analytics use in colleges

Ellen Wagner, executive director of WCET, said her organization is hoping to examine what a number of institutions are doing with predictive analytics in an effort to identify large patterns and help other make decisions that are informed by university practices. WCET works to advance technology-enhanced teaching and learning practices in higher education.

“People are fascinated at the power and strength of decision-making that comes from predictive analytics when it deals with tangible things that are fairly easy to quantify and measure, i.e. planning from an academic perspective,” she said.

Wagner said WCET is seeing different institutions start to share data and change the way they interact.

“Every institution really does have a unique population that it serves really well. … You have a chance to see where the different types of students are particularly successful; it gives people the opportunity to do institutional selection,” she said. “In the same way that institutions look for certain types of students, the students themselves are looking for the same types of advisements. Being able to identify the places where one will be more likely to be successful than another is a fairly compelling way to begin looking at this issue.”

“I want us to be able to really take advantage of a lot of the different convergence trends,” Wagner said, adding that future applications include “using predictive analytics to make education a better place.”


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