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intended to be school-wide vs. for a set number of classes. But the campus, which also runs self-hosted Moodle, dis- covered that the risk model wasn’t valid across all LMS courses. Faculty use the LMS in their own ways, making the data inconsistent.
Solution: Take a detour to avoid the pothole. The univer- sity decided that X-Ray served better as a “more robust and detailed dashboard” to view student activities in a course than what Moodle generically has available. The scope of learning analytics across the whole institution vs. specific courses will take a longer-term view and engagement.
Pothole No. 3: Chico State, running a self-hosted version of Blackboard Learn when it began this project, found that instructors considered the predictions superficial, leading to a lack of trust. As Fernandes recalled, one person who taught organic chemistry “basically said, ‘Yeah, within the first two weeks, 80 percent of the students [in my class] are predicted to fail. I could have told you that before you got the software.’”
Solution: Fill the pothole. As a result of that kind of feedback, the vendor received a recommendation: Priori- tize the students predicted to fail and give feedback about why the program thinks those students will fail. There are 25 to 60 variables used in the risk calculations, Fernandes pointed out. Is the student expected to fail because he’s a freshman with a low GPA or because he missed handing in an assignment? “You’re not helping me by saying they’re
potentially at risk. I need to know what specifically is caus- ing the vulnerability of that risk.”
Driving Lessons
Both Fernandes and Bayard would acknowledge that the learning is still going on. But just a semester or two into the deployments, they’ve already picked up plenty of insight.
Use of the LMS gradebook is essential. Without it, there isn’t much to work from in building the picture of success, said Bayard. “A course that is making frequent use of the
gradebook for assessment — particularly in the first six weeks — gives you more accurate data.” At the same time, due to a bug in the software, faculty needed to avoid grade- book “weighted columns.” The fix: Have faculty work with an instructional designer to assist in setting up low-stakes, high-frequency assessments that use the gradebook.
Clicker apps are a quick way to assess. Since frequent assessments recorded to the gradebook makes for better predictions, Bayard has seen pickup of student polling apps among instructors. “They’re doing it individually in courses to
Vintage Tone / Solis Images /

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