How Indian River State College uses analytics to close the online-residential achievement gap
- Since launching its virtual campus in 2013, Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida, has tapped into Blackboard's data analytics tools to close the online-residential achievement gap, seeing a 6 point increase in success rates for online courses from 74% in 2013-14 to 80.1% in 2016-17, as well as an 11% increase in its online baccalaureate success rate.
- The institution has seen positive results by implementing a master course model for online courses so that all virtual classes have the same user experience and faculty have an easier time developing curriculum. Additionally, the institution utilizes a centralized grade center and produces an aggregate report for deans and faculty to be able to see across an entire division of programs where students may be having difficulties. This allows advisors to step in and intervene if necessary, explained Kendall St. Hilaire, Assistant Dean of the Virtual Campus to Education Dive.
- St. Hilaire explained this model has transferred across the campus, because the master courses have "paved the way for us to implement other initiatives here at the college including analytics," and helps build a culture around "providing the right resources to our students early on and explaining the expectations, as well as developing heightened collaboration and partnerships between dean and advisors and support departments."
Using data across the campus to inform better performance among faculty and students has been growing as a trend within the higher education industry for some time now. But still, many institutions have not embraced this approach, with a 2017 survey conducted by Unit 4, a systems management company, reporting that 81% of the 150 IT decision-makers respondents said their institutions invest in technology to support student success objectives, but only 37% use data a warehouse and analytics to support student outcomes. Success at Indian River State College, among other institutions, using data analytics to support students highlights why the approach ought to be considered by more schools.
During a panel discussion at the 2018 American Council on Education Conference, Scott Pulsipher, president of Western Governors University, emphasized it's critical that schools don't just randomly try out different data approaches, but actually think thoughtfully about what the institution needs and what it could gain from the data being collected. St. Hilaire explained IRSC's experience with the tool began after launching the virtual campus and the institution realizing that "there was never a unified structure in terms of creating a holistically online program." Subsequently, the implementation of a data-heavy approach to student success, as well as a standardized user experience model, is intended to provide instructional continuity and interventions.
"The report grabs the current grade center score in every course and provides a birds eye view for every instructional dean, and they can go in at various points in the semester, and they can get a birds eye view of every course that's running in their division," she said, adding that in terms of addressing the potential for faculty feeling like they are being intruded on, the approach focuses on providing support, rather than punitive measures. "We want the faculty members to know we are here to help them. We are all kind of in this together, but of course, there was concern that this was big brother. But really, the analytics provide a glimpse into what's happening so we can try to troubleshoot."
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