Page 35 - Campus Technology, October/November 2019
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measure excellence in student success. So in 2014, the university was looking for a way to jumpstart its student success efforts and continue improving student completion rates. For one thing, it formed a partnership with Civitas Learning to use the company’s predictive analytics platform to better understand students’ needs and enable more precise, effective student support. At the same time, the university created a Persistence Committee that developed a case management approach to addressing students at risk of leaving school. The task force’s early work laid the groundwork for success with predictive analytics, according to Paul Dosal, USF’s vice president for student affairs and student success. He recalled that the group worked to “create the institutional culture and build the data infrastructure and research capacity to support our student success initiative. All three of those things are interrelated and laid the foundation for our implementation of predictive analytics,” he said. USF’s work with Civitas involves integrating and analyzing data from USF’s Banner student information system (SIS) and Canvas learning management system (LMS) to gain insight into the factors that impact student success, making it possible to identify the individual students who are at the highest risk of dropping out based on past student behavior. Dosal said getting the needed data elements fed into Civitas only took a few months. “It took us longer to figure out how to act on it,” he stressed. The Civitas platform looks at more than 300 variables. For instance, it pulls data from the Canvas LMS about how often a student is logging in. “If the average student is logging in once per day, the platform finds students logging in only once per week, he said. “That is a powerful predictor of persistence or lack of persistence.” By adopting a case management model, the Persistence Committee was able to provide students with more personalized support, taking advantage of pre-existing relationships students might have with particular faculty members or Category: Administration Institution: University of South Florida Project: Persistence Committee Project lead: Paul Dosal, vice president for student affairs & student success Tech lineup: Civitas Learning, Ellucian, Instructure staff. (Case management has been used by several universities, including USF, but mostly for handling students who are displaying signs of emotional distress.) Teams work to triage each case and determine what is going on with a particular student: Is the issue financial, academic or emotional? Then they try to figure out how to intervene and who should intervene. “We began to generate lists from the Civitas platform of at-risk freshman students who are not likely to persist into the next semester or year. It might have represented only 2 percent of our entire freshman class — about 80 students,” Dosal explained. “I thought we could send that list to advisers, counselors and coaches and ask them to intervene. That is what got us started. We began to realize if we pulled together the right people who might know the students or know how to work with them, once we realized which issues they were struggling with, then they could develop the appropriate interventions to support that student.” Today, USF has already surpassed its goal of achieving a 90 percent first-year student retention rate and a 70 percent six-year graduation rate. USF’s first-year retention rate now stands at 91 percent, the highest in university history. Its six-year graduation rate recently reached 73 percent, an increase of 22 percentage points since 2009. Impressively, using analytics and case management tools to understand risk patterns 35 

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