New development could help colleges improve student retention


“These variables will be used as building blocks in various strategic combinations to craft meaningful outcome measures and actionable predictors of student risk, which further highlights the importance of common definitions,” said Davis. “The more than 60 contributed variables submitted by our institutional partners and the new variables constructed from them will be used to yield meaningful benchmarks and predictive models against which partner institutions can evaluate retention strategies.”

The simplified definitions established by the cohort of project partners were a labor worth undertaking, said Mike Sharkey, director of academic analytics at the Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix.

“The focus on common data definitions within the PAR Framework has been a challenging yet rewarding part of this process,” said Sharkey. “Working collaboratively with representatives from a heterogeneous group of institutions takes time, but the benefits of common data definitions are tremendous. “

The data definitions were published using the Data Cookbook, a collaborative data dictionary and data management tool for higher education built by iData Inc.

Using the online Data Cookbook “was a very beneficial way to develop the overall parameters of the individual data variables,” said Vincent Maruggi, director of institutional research at Broward College. “The iterative, cooperative process unearthed a number of variables that had multiple interpretation options that needed rational and consistent consideration, especially considering their application across the diverse set of institutions involved in PAR.”

Maruggi attested that working with the other institutions within the project was a positive experience.

“The dialogue was highly productive and forced me to investigate deeper into Broward College’s student data system for elements that were not previously utilized in a like manner, while also giving us a new conceptual structure for future reporting.”

Follow Assistant Editor Sarah Langmead on Twitter at @eCN_Sarah.

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