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Building the exceptional higher education student experience with analytics

Part 1 of 3

Worldwide Industry Marketing Leader, Government & Education, IBM Analytics

One of the chief reasons first-year students leave colleges and universities is that they are unprepared for the rigors of college life. For many of these students, attending a college or university is the first time they have spent significant amounts of time away from friends and family. Feelings of loneliness and homesickness abound. Students also find the academic environment challenging; students who cruised through high school can struggle with the college curriculum and may not feel they belong at the university.

http://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/sites/default/files/studentfun_blog.jpgAccording to Leaving Academia, a website focused on attrition, these are some of the reasons students leave college:

  • Too much fun at the expense of classes and grades
  • Academically unprepared; burned-out on education
  • Financial constraints; low on funds
  • Academic climate/fit
  • Lack of advising, guidance
  • Demands from part-time or full-time employment

In this first installment, we’ll focus on two areas: too much fun at the expense of classes and grades and academically unprepared or burned-out on education. Data and analytics can address some of those issues, helping colleges and universities reduce the likelihood of attrition and to create an exceptional student experience.

Too much fun at the expense of classes and grades

While determining if students “party” too much is difficult without seeming to pry into their personal lives, monitoring their academic progress may be the best indicator of whether or not a student is focused more on nightlife versus academic life. By setting thresholds of when academic progress could indicate a problem and measuring student progress, colleges and universities can get a sense of which students are at risk. Intervention to address the academic shortfalls may lead to revelations by the student of a “party-hearty” mentality that has impacted academic work. Once identified, the institution can begin to take the necessary remedial steps.

Academically unprepared and burned-out on education

College right out of high school isn’t necessarily for everyone. We all know stories of the star student in high school who failed to cut it at a college or university, dropped out and returned home. Several factors come into play, but often these students are either academically unprepared for the rigors of college academics or they're just tired, especially if they’ve felt pressured to perform well. Analytics can be used to understand whether a student is ready to enter the institution. Expanding the criteria for how students’ academic capacity is measured can identify weaknesses. Once identified, those weaknesses can be addressed by a rigorous “entry-level” curriculum that helps the student meet the academic requirements of the institution. Measuring and monitoring student progress can help ensure this occurs.

An analytics-driven approach can help make sure students’ time at colleges and universities is meaningful and memorable. See how London Southbank University applied data and analytics to address the needs of students as outlined above. For more information on IBM data and analytics solutions for education, visit IBM Analytics for Education.

Improve your students' experience

Read part two about reducing student attrition with analytics.