What Determines Student Success? 

This is something that is obviously discussed quite a bit, and for obvious reasons. You find the key to understanding student success and you’re set. Being able to say, “I know exactly what will ensure your passing” would be the thing of dreams and it’s something that every school, college, university and company would love to be able to do. We spend a great deal of our time analysing data and trying to cross reference this to really understand the correlation between student behaviour and their success.

Recently Blackboard posted an article on their blog where John Whitmer, their Director of Analytics and Research had conducted a study on student interaction with the LMS and drawing that line between that data and ultimately the success of the student. They looked at anonymized data for over 70,000 courses and over 600,000 students. Their findings were interesting, but also show that there is more to be done to understand students.

They found that the time spent in the course content wasn’t the best measure of student success, for one. Well, this is something that we believe has always been the case. As we’ve mentioned in the past, simply using an arbitrary figure, such as the amount of time a student is accessing course material, doesn’t tell us anything about why they’re accessing it, or what they’re doing when they’re in there.  Their findings actually showed it reached a peak, where the more time students spent in a course, their grades got worse. Which, in our minds would ring true. When you have a student that requires more time within content to understand it, you’re more likely to have a struggling student, than a student who spends a period of time in course material, enough to get it done finished. Yet, as students all learn at different rates and speeds and in different ways, even this isn’t a great measure of understanding more about our students.

What they also found was that the more students accessed their grade book, the more likely the student was to succeed. Interesting. This doesn’t mean not looking at the content and spending all your time in the grade book. Yet, with the right percentage of time spent in content and the more they looked at the grade book, the more likely the student was to pass. Again, while this helps us understand more about the link between the two, it also leaves us with more questions. Think about it in this way; just because a student is wanting to do well, it doesn’t mean that they will. You’d surmise that the student checking their grades frequently was a student who really wanted to do well.  Which is a fair assessment, we’d say, but doesn’t help us understand each individual. This still leaves us thinking there is so much more to the problem.

student success

(image above taken from Blackboard blog here)

A student who wants to do well, they work hard and are checking their grades frequently, but are also struggling with one of their classes. This is when as many data points as possible help us more to understand the situation. As mentioned in the Blackboard blog, the more time spent in the course after a point actually contributed to a lower chance of student success, but then you have to look at all the other metrics you get too. Is that student asking more questions? How is the rest of their activity?

What makes it even harder is that this is just one student and one scenario. What about all the other scenarios each individual student is living?

There is no doubt that there is a link between data, but one important factor we shouldn’t ignore is the individual. Understanding the individual student and their data will help us to really help on that individual level. Take a student and understand “is this normal behaviour for X?” rather than against a vast number of students who ae completely different from each other.

You can read more about the original article by John on the Blackboard blog

 

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