Career College Central: Using Data to Drive Student Motivation and Success

You’ve heard the chatter at every conference and convention – “big data is going to revolutionize education”.  But as you sit there juggling across SIS, LMS, ERP’s and other acronym-laden systems do you know what data is not only available, but can be presented to students in a way that helps them improve their motivation and success?  Here are a few lessons learned from discussions across dozens of campuses.

Start with the answer.  Yes, every system on campus from your web site to learning management system generates data of some sort or another.  To figure out what data is useful it’s best to start by defining your envisioned solution.  For example, improving student study behavior and improving course completion rates are objectives we can target with data and analytics.

  1. List the ingredients.  With the objective in sight, work backwards and sketch out reports that might be helpful for students keeping in mind the data elements you’re using and compiling need to be available to you.  Field test your sketches with as many instructors and students as you can find for feedback – changes at this point are very inexpensive (less so later).
  2. Distill it down.  Starting with a dashboard with a dozen charts and graphs will be too distracting and hard to use.  Isolate down to one (or if you have to, two) charts or tables that simply convey the insights you’d like students to take away.
  3. Check the cupboard.  Now that you’ve got an awesome, intuitive, report it’s time to make sure you have a secure and reliable way of (1) generating the data and (2) presenting the report to students.  Note that most students aren’t going to want to spend time looking at reports, they want to know how to save time or save money – preferably both!
  4. Build, launch, refine.  It’s no good until it’s built and running.  Collect feedback, a lot of feedback, and quickly respond and iterate.  There is no substitute for fine-tuning.

We followed this same approach at Junction ( to build intuitive, student-facing, reports which help them answer two questions they have in every college course: (1) how much time should I spend studying each week; and (2) what are the things I should spend more/less time studying.  We answer these questions with just two charts.  The first chart looks across the course to date and shows

students, to the minute, which lessons they are spending more or less time on versus their top performing peers.  The second chart drills into a lesson and compares a student’s time spent by lesson page, again to the minute, against their top-performing peers.  Student appreciate the focus these personalized reports provide in building and maintaining productive study behaviors.

Vineet Madan is the Founder and CEO of Junction Education, a company working with higher education institutions to deliver affordable, engaging and effective courseware. See why 82% of students rate Junction as more effective than any other learning platform.

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