Page 36 - Campus Technology, October/November 2019
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2019 and student engagement, USF has been able to zero out the achievement gap between students of color and white students in its first- year class. “We are thrilled that we are helping underrepresented minorities and lower income students achieve at higher rates,” Dosal said, “but that is not the intent of what we are doing. We are using analytics to identify all struggling students. In the process, we are In another example, one of the offices that asked to be on the Persistence Committee was the cashier’s office. “That represented a dramatic change in institutional culture and practice,” Dosal added. “They started thinking if we have a student who owes money, that student is a retention risk. They started steering that student toward the financial aid office or the financial literacy program to find ways to USF has been able to zero out the achievement gap between students of color and white students in its first-year class. helping underperforming students, who often are minorities or limited-income students.” Dosal said there may be other sources of data that universities could use to assess persistence. “One of our powerful predictors of persistence and success is engagement with campus recreation,” he noted. “Basically, the more students visit campus recreation, the more likely they are to graduate on time. It is a signal of student engagement with the university as well as health and attitude. I love that. If it could be incorporated into Civitas, great. The challenge is that the data set has to be large enough to be meaningful.” The success at USF is the result of cultural change as well as a more sophisticated use of data, Dosal emphasized. USF faculty, administrators and staff began creating new student support services in their own departments. For example, library staff members designed a “personal librarian” program so that each student would have a source of support in the library to help him or her conduct research. help that student pay his or her bill.” Universities both large and small can take advantage of this type of analytics, Dosal believes. “It is a fairly low-cost approach. The investment has been in the platform itself and about 12 new positions, staff members who serve as case managers. Those were added over time. It was never one big chunk of money we had to put down to make this happen. I think it can be replicated at low cost.” Dosal recommended, however, that universities lay the groundwork of institutionalizing success efforts and use of data before jumping into predictive analytics: “We have had that conversation with a few universities that want to adapt our Persistence Committee technique,” he said. “If the right culture isn’t in place — a culture of accountability and planning for performance — it may not work. People have to lay the foundation first.” David Raths is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. 36 CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | Oct/Nov 2019 

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