LMS secures results for online institutions

LearningStudio’s digitally embedded content and reporting capabilities help guide students and faculty on successful paths.

Universities with online programs want a learning management system that is not only easily deployable, but also includes features that can improve student retention—a problem that is particularly concerning to online institutions.

A growing number of campus leaders believe learning analytics could be essential tools for improving learning outcomes and college completion rates. Recently, eCampus News highlighted several programs equipped with learning analytics tools that are garnering success at universities: Ellucian’s Course Signals, Jenzabar Retention, Blackboard Analytics for Learn, and Desire2Learn Analytics.

When deciding which learning management system to incorporate to improve productivity, Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA), based in West Palm Beach, Fla., and the six community colleges that are part of Kansas’s eduKan cohort invested in Pearson LearningStudio, an LMS designed for mostly or completely online institutions.

Pearson LearningStudio is at the center of an integrated system of services called eCollege that includes data reporting and analytics capabilities.

Matt Leavy, chief executive officer of eCollege, said administrators can opt to receive “triggers for intervention” through a daily reporting feature, and they can track which students aren’t attending class, or which students failed an exam.

“Our research shows that speed is everything in terms of getting students on track,” said Leavy. “We also have sophisticated algorithms that show the trajectory of a successful student based on dozens of variables, and it changes by schools—it fills the profile of a successful student, and it tracks every other student against that profile. You can tell early in the term if a student will be successful in the course.”

(Next page: How colleges have benefited from using Pearson LearningStudio)

Though PBA first began using eCollege products in 1999, Pat Bassett, director of online learning, said that everyday use of the software has increased exponentially since then. She said Pearson LearningStudio’s reporting tools are particularly beneficial to faculty members and students.

“As the primary administrator for Pearson LearningStudio on our campus, I use the features of Enterprise Reporting for a number of reports that are produced and shared with the academic community leaders,” said Bassett. “These reports … provide the foundation for data-driven decisions involving our online operations, but to date we have not used the analytic tools for recruitment or retention as we anticipate we will in the future. Our totally online initiative is essentially in its infancy, and we have a great deal to learn about using such tools effectively.”

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Leavy said that Pearson LearningStudio also can track student activity and report how long a particular student took to answer a problem, or how many hints the student requested. This type of “big data” can be extremely helpful in pinpointing which students are falling behind, and equipping them with the resources they need to succeed.

“One common problem is that students think they’ve done OK [in past coursework], but they can’t complete [and succeed in] the course without a solid foundation,” said Leavy.  “Pearson aims to do something, not just be a cool tool that you buy in a store and looks pretty on a screen. [We] also achieve specific goals of the institution.”

Mark Sarver, CEO of eduKan, said the consortium of community colleges first formed in 1998 when the six western Kansas schools teamed with one goal in mind: to deliver online educational opportunities for current and new students. Today, eduKan serves approximately 5,000 students.

eduKan’s research found that about 50 percent of its students were purchasing textbooks through college bookstores, while the other half of students took their business elsewhere—or failed to purchase textbooks altogether.

“We found students dropping classes early on because they didn’t have books,” said Sarver. Investing in Pearson LearningStudio opened up digitally embedded content and open educational resources (OER) for students to use, thereby alleviating costs. Today, students pay a $115 resource fee that includes everything they’ll need for class, which, compared to the previous $225 average textbook cost, is a welcome change.

Pearson LearningStudio’s operational reporting capabilities also greatly benefit eduKan.

“[They] allow us to look at where students are, how they’re engaging—with each other, with a faculty member—and we’ve done some correlation studies looking at the correlation between students who spend time in threaded discussions and their success rate in classes,” said Sarver.

Perhaps above all else, eduKan values Pearson LearningStudio’s ability to identify “weak points” in a given course. eduKan hopes that through editing and reconstructing courses, it can generate stronger student outcomes in the future.

“What [Pearson LearningStudio] allows us to do [is], you can look in and see, ‘All of our students are struggling with differential equations,’ and we can go to the professor and say, ‘Here are all these resources, let’s find a better way to teach this,’” said Sarver. “This is the ultimate academic freedom.”

Follow Assistant Editor Sarah Langmead on Twitter: @eCN_Sarah.

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