Analytics use boosts student retention

Kansas’s 28.7 percent dropout rate among fall 2007 freshmen was significantly higher than peer institutions, said Christopher Haufler, a University of Kansas professor who chaired the school’s student retention task force.

The university’s average retention rate after one year is 80 percent, he said, compared with 85 percent to 90 percent at peer institutions.

Kansas’s retention system uses analytics to raise real-time online flags for students who fall below a certain grade or involvement “threshold” designated by the university.

Nationwide, fewer than three-fourths of two-year career college students return to school after their first year, according to research released by the nonprofit Imagine America Foundation. Just 57 percent of public community college students return after one year, and 68 percent return after a year at a private institution, according to the research.

Other schools, such as Western Iowa Tech Community College (WITCC), use student tuition payment data to gage how likely a student is to leave school.

Educators often have a difficult time tracking the engagement level of online students, who—unlike traditional students—don’t interact with their professors and fellow students every day in class. Analytics tools, like the kind used at APUS, could make that task much easier, Ice said.

“By identifying patterns of performance, we believe we can create an approach to applying predictive analytics … that will help practitioners and students alike spot barriers to success before they become problems,” he said.

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