Use of predictive analytics paying dividends at one university

Denley said there were no percentage breakdowns available, but passing grades had spiked by five standard deviations in a recent analysis of how the predictive technology has worked over the past two years.

Among Pell grant recipients, Denley said, the impact is even greater. There has been an increase of seven standard deviations in Pell students who have used the Degree Compass program.

“We can absolutely feel the impact on our campus,” Denley said. “It’s a real victory to see that providing these extra layers of information has helped students. … It was a logical step for us to inform choices within a major and to show students which majors to select, which majors they’d thrive in.”

The system selects classes that fit best with the sequence of courses in a major and are the most central to university curriculum. That ranking is then overlaid with a statistical model designed to predict in which courses the student will achieve the most success.

Students don’t simply plug in their academic information and wait for a series of viable options to pop up in the Degree Compass system. They work closely with campus advisors who guide students through the process of choosing classes and majors that fit their interests and skillsets.

The system predicts grades for each student in each class, but the student can’t see the prediction. “This is not intended to be about self-fulfilling prophecy,” Denley said.

“It’s not prescribing or restricting, it’s simply narrowing down choices and providing useful information,” he added. “It’s not just picking a major, it’s picking a future.”

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