Finding the Prodigal Student: Academics' Analytics at UCD

Lee O'Farrell - UCD

It frequently seems to be the case that the students with the greatest need are the ones who are least likely to ask for help. All too often, institutions only discover that a student was heading for an early withdrawal once the withdrawal form has been submitted and the student has headed for pastures new. Like a needle in a haystack, how can HEI’s find students who are having problems among the thousands of students who are progressing normally before it’s too late?

Realising these difficulties, UCD has been working since 2009 to proactively identify students who may be heading into difficulty so that the relevant academic and/or pastoral supports can be put in place and a premature withdrawal can be prevented.
We have done this by implementing Student Engagement Analytics, a platform which helps Programme Office staff to identify students who are overworked, underperforming and less engaged than their peers. Through this tool, we have made invaluable metrics available to staff as early as four weeks into the academic year. This is particularly useful in identifying first years who may be struggling up to four months earlier than such information would previously have been available (following semester 1 exams).

Following on from the success of this initiative we are, in 2014/15, implementing an advanced engagement dashboard called IAN or Integrated Assistance Nexus. IAN will provide the staff who support students with up-to-date, highly relevant flags which will make identification of students who may be veering from the academic path even easier. By including simple flags relating to engagement, workload, performance, extenuating circumstances and fee compliance, we are giving staff on the frontline access to over 15,000 pieces of data per student in a very concise, user-friendly and easily-interpreted format which is constantly correct and up-to-date. This data comes from multiple sources include the student record, their Student Information System and their VLE activity.

It is also a highly adaptable platform which we plan to enhance through the inclusion of data such as degree compliance, library usage and interactions with student supports.

This presentation will explore the steps we’ve taken from realising we needed to do something to implementing a highly innovative and effective tool for supporting our students, as well as the things we’ve learned along the way…