Using data analytics to track non-traditional students

March 27, 2018
  • AACRAO Annual Meeting
  • Records and Academic Services
  • Retention

California Baptist University (CBU) Online serves a large population of non-traditional students, offering accelerated degree programs online in over forty disciplines. For undergraduate sections, course sections typically run for 8 weeks. When Rich Simpson started in his current position as the Registrar for Online and Professional studies at California Baptist University, the relatively short length of these courses combined with the fact that students could potentially complete in even less time created significant problems when it came to Title IV tracking requirements for distance education programs.

A simple metric like checking whether a student logged in to the course was not sufficient for CBU Online’s purposes. Simpson and his team decided to focus on a combination of metrics to determine attendance. Gradebook entries, minutes in the course, and data access were included factors, but the team settled on submission of assignments in any course element as the primary indicator of attendance. With the metrics and definitions sorted, they now how to find a way to capture this information and analyze it quickly and efficiently. Simpson contacted Blackboard Learn to come up with a custom report function which would allow CBU staff to download reports that display all of their attendance metrics. They then import this data into excel during week one and week two so they can determine student status and fulfill their reporting requirements.

Using this data, CBU Online can quickly and easily take care of their Title IV tracking requirements. But as an added benefit, the data also informed an early alert system. Based on various attendance metrics, they now classify students with attendance issues in moderate and high risk groups. They can reach out as early as week three to mitigate failure, and have seen a 13.5% reduction in dropout rates.

Another unintended benefit? Simpson was quick to point out that the online faculty now love him, as he championed the process by which the administration handles at-risk students so the teachers can focus on teaching.