Across Europe and around the world, governments and educational institutions are facing increased pressure to deliver ever-greater numbers of highly skilled students to meet the needs of an increasingly knowledge-based economy. At the same time, these organisations look to control costs, deliver better value for money and provide greater transparency about the educational experience they offer to their key constituents: students, parents, employers and the higher education funding bodies.

Governments and institutions are evaluating how to respond and how they can improve the effectiveness of their operations, including making better use of data. Other industries, such as retail, manufacturing and healthcare are successfully using data driven insights to improve efficiency and effectiveness and leading educational institutions are now starting to consider doing the same. They are looking to harness the power of data and analytics to improve student retention, provide better feedback to learners, enhance the overall quality of teaching and improve the effectiveness of their operations. In summary, they are looking to increase student success.

But what do we mean by student success? Student success means different things to different institutions: for some it may be ensuring that the student is retained and does not drop out or withdraw, for others it about ensuring that the student achieves their full potential, and for others it is that they graduate in a timely manner.

I have the chance to talk to clients on a daily basis and discuss with them what it “takes” to implement a Learning Analytics solution. Besides having the right platform in place, it is important they have a clear understanding of what they want to achieve and how the institution and its solution partners can work together and deliver against that plan.

Every institution has its own approach based on multiple factors, but some topics and goals seem to be recurring.

Data driven interventions for student success
A key application of Learning Analytics is identifying the students who need additional support to be successful. While institutions generally seek to provide support for all students, identifying those in the most need is often difficult – they are often not the students who will come forward and ask. By considering a student’s demographic profile, academic history, online engagement and early academic performance, Learning Analytics can help identify the students who are most likely to need support and do so early enough in their studies that interventions can have maximum benefit.

Human relationships are at the centre of education
First and foremost, education is about human relationships. Learning Analytics serves institutions to identify the students and inform the human interventions that are so important to student success. Learning analytics will not replace teachers or advisors, rather it allows all those who work with students across the university to have better informed and more effective interactions.

Supporting change management
Considering all the stakeholders that influence student success, the major challenge is not the technology itself, it is about helping staff evolve from the old way of doing things to a new, better informed way. To facilitate this, institutions need to develop their plans around the use of data and assess their readiness. This goes well beyond their technical readiness and encompasses strategy, policy, processes, systems and people.

Partnership for success
Institutions need to consider who is best placed to address the individual components that come together to form a student success solution.

Technically, Learning Analytics is strictly linked to the math behind it, especially when it comes to using predictive analytics, since the reliability of the predictions is governed by the quality of the algorithms and the choice of data used. Our approach, for example, has been to first carry out fundamental quantitative research, led by some of the world’s leading data scientists, and then use the findings of that research to inform product design and deliver a scalable, easy to use system to deal with the large quantities of data involved.

Student Success will be a fundamental measure in a future characterised by increased competition and greater accountability. At Blackboard, we have been working hard and making the strategic investments to help institutions benefit from the power of the data and analytics.

Want to learn more about how Blackboard helps drive institutional success with learning analytics? Access the University of Derby case study

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