digital learning

Here’s what makes students 200 percent more likely to pass

Digital learning resources could prove invaluable when it comes to course achievement

A new study indicates that students who engage with digital learning tools are dramatically more likely to pass their courses.

The research comes from Blackboard, VitalSource, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and is based on UMBC student engagement data across a diverse range of courses, including a variety of course subjects and class sizes. It assessed students’ use of Blackboard Learn and Bookshelf by VitalSource.

The results point definitively to the value of high engagement with digital resources. UMBC students who were highly engaged with digital learning tools were 200 percent more likely to pass their courses than students who were less engaged with the digital tools, according to the study results.

Incoming C students with low engagement had a 37 percent likelihood of passing a class, while similar students exhibiting the highest level of engagement with Blackboard Learn and/or VitalSource had a more than 90 percent likelihood of passing a class.

The study also demonstrates the valuable role of learning data interoperability, supported in this study by IMS Caliper Analytics, a standard format for analytics created to allow a variety of learning tools to return data that can be analyzed in aggregate.

By combining activity data from multiple digital learning tools, it becomes possible to create earlier and more accurate predictions of student achievement. In the hands of professional advisers, this could mean more timely interventions and more students remaining on track for on-time graduation.

“To my knowledge, this project represents one of the few empirical studies to look at student success through combined, digital tool usage data,” says John Fritz, UMBC’s associate vice president for instructional technology. “In addition, the IMS Caliper Analytics standard made it technically possible for a university and two ed-tech companies to pursue shared interests, which is rare in its own right. We learned a lot and appreciated the collaboration very much.”

“We believe that putting actionable data in educators’ hands will have a meaningful impact on student outcomes and retention,” says Dr. Michael Hale, vice president of education at VitalSource.

Overall, the study found 5 major results:
1. Early activity is a strong predictor of passing a class
2. Activity patterns differ from course to course; for instance, a math course features more consistent activity throughout the analyzed term, while a physics course featured three periods of intense activity with lighter activity in between
3. Learning data is a more powerful predictor of student achievement than demography or educational background
4. Combining learning data from multiple sources improves prediction accuracy
5. Students who actively use multiple online resources are more likely to pass a class

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Laura Ascione

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