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Purdue and SunGard Higher Ed To Launch Course Dashboard App

Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN will be working with SunGard Higher Education to convert the institution's student success software into a packaged product. Signals, developed by Purdue, monitors students' behavior patterns and academic performance to determine if they're at risk of earning a low grade and allows faculty to intervene with suggestions on actions they can take to help students improve their grades. A stoplight provides indications to students if they're underperforming and prompts the students to take action.

Representatives from the university (as well as the Purdue Research Foundation, which helps the university in economic development) and SunGard signed a memorandum of understanding outlining key points of the collaboration. All parties have begun work on a definitive agreement. SunGard Higher Education will create and market a new software product based on Signals that will be architected to work with multiple course management systems and student information systems. The solution also will provide flexibility for institutions so that they can refine and customize it to fit their needs and environment.

"The old idea of weeding out students, of 'look left, look right, and one of you won't be here next year,' is an incredibly wasteful process for both universities and families. No one thanks educators if their kid lasts two years and then drops out," said Gerry McCartney, Purdue's CIO and vice president for IT. "Signals helps us keep the students on task and focused, and offers students real opportunities for improvement."

Signals was tested in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 academic years in a pilot involving nearly 2,000 students. During the test, a double-blind study found that 67 percent of students receiving a yellow or red warning improved their effort and grade. For students who received only a red light, 78 percent improved their grade and effort during the mid-term period.

"Our faculty loves Signals because it helps them quickly identify students who need help and reach out to them in an effective and efficient way," McCartney said. "But the students love it even more, which is both pleasing and a bit of a surprise, honestly."

"Signals provides educators and leaders in higher education with valuable information to help them meet the individual educational needs of their students," said Joseph Hornett, senior vice president, treasurer, and chief operating officer of the Purdue Research Foundation. "The flexibility of the Signals software is also important, enabling it to fit different needs at different institutions and be modified as new technologies are introduced to the educational environment."

SunGard said Signals will complement its existing Banner Enrollment Management Suite by focusing on improving student success within a course, while components within Banner Enrollment Management focus on retaining the student at the institution or within a particular degree program. The company added that data from Signals about student risk within courses will feed into Banner Enrollment Management to help create a complete picture of the student's education experience.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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