Analytics use boosts student retention

APUS uses IBM’s SPSS Modeler, which uses key student performance, participation, and attendance information in part to measure a student’s social presence, along with a student’s perception of online learning’s effectiveness.

These two factors have proven to be reliable variables telling professors and instructors how likely a student is to drop out of classes.

APUS recently joined the Colorado Community College System, Rio Salado College, the University of Hawaii System, the University of Illinois-Springfield, and the University of Phoenix in a nationwide initiative aiming to improve analytics and increase its use in higher education.

The Predictive Analytics Reporting (PAR) Framework project, launched last May by the educational technology group Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), will examine six critical data sets as a single sample that could make analytics more effective on college campuses.

The six colleges and universities participating in the PAR project will create a pool of information from 400,000 students who will remain anonymous in the research.

Analysts will use this massive collection of student records to assess factors that affect retention and learning outcomes among online students.

Ice said about nine in 10 colleges use some form of statistical analysis to determine retention and learning strategies on campus, but only 9 percent use historical data to supplement current numbers—and only about 1 percent of U.S. colleges and universities use “deep data mining” to explore why dropout rates might be rising.

“That number really needs to expand, especially around the crisis of student enrollment,” Ice said. “We need to let the data speak for themselves.”

Campuses large and small have not been immune to spiking dropout rates.

University of Kansas officials worked with a data-mining company in 2010 to pinpoint strategies to keep students enrolled after a university report showed that 28.7 percent of freshmen from the fall 2007 semester have left the campus.

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