Use of predictive analytics paying dividends at one university

The Degree Compass program was not meant to be a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy,’ Denley says.

Two years after first using predictive analytics to suggest courses and majors for students, officials at Austin Peay State University are reporting significant increases in passing grades across the institution.

Austin Peay, a four-year public university with more than 10,000 undergraduates, first used predictive analytics in 2011 to suggest academic paths for students, combining hundreds of thousands of past students’ grades with each student’s transcript to make specific recommendations for which courses and majors students would fit into best.

The technology is similar to the systems that generate recommendations on Netflix and Pandora based on a person’s movie and music preferences. Austin Peay’s predictive system, however, does not make recommendations based on the popularity of a certain class or major.

Tristan Denley, Austin Peay’s provost and vice president for academic affairs and designer of the Degree Compass program, said the school has seen notable increases in the proportion of students finishing courses with an A, B, or C, rather than a failing grade since adoption of the Degree Compass system in 2011.

This, Denley said, could be in part due to the software helping students avoid advanced courses that might prove too challenging before prerequisite classes.

Why did Pell grant recipients fare better in the predictive analytics program? See Page 2 for details.

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