Jen Q. Public: Addressing student attrition in higher education

Digital Marketing Lead, Public Services Sector, IBM Analytics

August 13, 2015, 11:09 p.m.

Dear diary,

I am so afraid my child will run herself ragged trying to balance school and a full-time job. I went to summer school only once in my entire college career and promised I’d never do it again. Hearing her tales of summer school nightmares and finals coming up this Saturday while she continues to work a full-time job is mind-boggling for me and likely mind-numbing for her. I’m certain the book monsters are invading her sleep and probably her every waking moment, particularly with the fall semester right around the corner.

This jam-packed, school and work schedule is an issue for students worldwide as many try to balance the rigors of life with getting an education. I recently discussed this issue with a colleague, who shared that understanding the pressures these students face is critical because they have a greater burden to balance both work and academics. If the pressure becomes too great, it’s the academics that are often dropped.

The good news is that many institutions of higher learning are now taking measures to help students. Just this week, I read that colleges and universities in Ohio plan to use data analytics tools to identify students at risk of dropping out. And last week I ran across an article about a computer program that the Open University in the UK plans to use this fall that can identify those likely to fail and pin down when they are likely to start struggling.

We can look at the capability to identify at-risk students from all angles and argue for or against using analytics in this manner for education. As my colleague pointed out, however, the key is capturing, integrating and aligning that data to get a complete view of students. By understanding each student as an individual, identifying whether the student is at risk is easier and then appropriate intervention can help balance the workload.

Hearing my daughter’s woes of balancing employment and education, I wish more institutions of higher learning used advanced analytics to identify at-risk students and enable action that can help stem student attrition.

Until next time,

Jen Q. Public