Big Data Comes To College

Career College Central summary:

  • When students at Purdue University are reading their homework assignments, sometimes the assignments are reading them too. A software program called tracks various pieces of information, including the number of points earned in the course and the amount of time the student has spent logged in to the college's software platform.
  • Course Signals combines this data with knowledge about the student's background, such as her high school GPA, and generates a "green," "yellow," or "red" light representing her chances of doing well in the course. Professors then have the option of sending students text messages or emails either warning them to buckle down or cheering them on.
  • "We work on sending tailored feedback—tips, tricks, hints," says Matt Pistilli, a who helped develop Course Signals. "It's giving students good information, so it doesn't come across as saying you're going to fail as much as, you're going to do better."
  • Course Signals has now been used by 24,000 students at various schools since its introduction in 2007, including about a fifth of Purdue's undergraduates in recent years. It has been shown to increase the number of students earning A's and B's and lower the number of D's and F's, and it significantly raises the chances that students will stick with college for an additional year, from 83% to 97%.

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