Distance Learning

Strayer U Deploys Data Analytics To Improve On line Student Engagement

Strayer University has recently gone public with a partnership designed to help identify factors that contribute to success for students in online courses.

"Developed in collaboration with student-success analytics innovator Civitas Learning, the findings often buck conventional wisdom, suggesting that data captured through a student's digital footprints can provide better predictors of success than the typical demographic data points," according to a news release.

Over several years, the university partnered with Civitas to aggregate relevant data from disparate sources in the company's Student Insights Platform. The data was then used to identify initiatives that seemed most promising in engaging students and faculty, improving behavioral mindsets and closing the gap between in-person and online learning.

Approximately four in five Strayer students take at least one course online. The university takes daily snapshots to mark progress, measure the time spent learning online, the number and type of posts in student forums and the times of day students are logged in. The university used such information, along with hundreds of other data points, to generate a picture of student work style, communication preferences and opportunities for support.

"The early phases of working with Civitas Learning's scientists were an exciting time of exploration and discovery, especially when we identified that success is better predicted by student engagement and effort — rather than the old standards of income, demographics, part-time status, or other static factors that are widely discussed," said Joe Schaefer, chief technology and innovation officer at Strayer U's parent company, Strayer Education, in a prepared statement.

"To be able to take measurable action on their insights, Strayer was a founding user of a faculty-facing application also developed by Civitas Learning, called Inspire for Faculty," according to information released by the company. "In a pilot with its highest-risk students, Strayer University used Inspire for Faculty to personalize outreach through highly targeted and specifically timed messages designed to catch students before they went off course."

"Historically, online faculty have had very limited insight into whether their outreach to students led to incremental or substantial benefits — or none at all. With sophisticated analytics and faculty dashboards, we can support much higher levels of faculty interaction to engage students and replicate an experience that is more like an on-ground course," added Schaefer. "This analytics layer allows us to deliver encouraging messages at the moments when students need support, measure what's working and change course as needed."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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