Georgia Southern University

Shining a light on student success


Georgia Southern University (Georgia Southern), the state’s largest and most comprehensive center of higher education south of Atlanta, is using Brightspace’s predictive analytics and data visualizations to help identify at-risk students early and pave the way to improved student success.

At a glance

Client: Georgia Southern University
Students: 3,155
Industry: Education

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  • On a quest to improve graduation rates


  • Better predict, measure and guide student performance
  • Student analytics offer the 'secret sauce'


  • Amazingly close
  • Like turning on lights in a darkened room

The Challenge

On a quest to improve graduation rates

Georgia Southern was motivated to improve retention rates by a program from the Governor’s office, the University System of Georgia’s Complete College Georgia program. It is an initiative aimed at producing 250,000 more graduates in upcoming years.

“We have been hovering in and around 80% for first-year retention and our five-year graduation rate is in the mid to high 40s,” explains Dr. Steven Burrell, VP of Information Technology at Georgia Southern. One strategy Georgia Southern considered was to change admission requirements, but they had limited ability to move that needle. They needed to find another way to qualitatively improve student success.

graduating students taking a selfie

The Solution

Better predict, measure and guide student performance

The answer was found within the Brightspace platform–specifically the Brightspace Student Success System™–through a predictive analytics tool that would allow Georgia Southern to pull data gathered within the LMS to better predict, measure and guide student performance.

“We have excellent dashboards that reflect what has happened, but until the Brightspace Student Success System, we had little ability to be more proactive versus reactive,” says Dr. Burrell. “Brightspace allows us to identify with high accuracy what will happen as a course is underway, and predict a student’s final grade at the course midpoint. If a student is struggling in the course, the idea is that we can identify them and invoke some intervention on his/her behalf and help the student successfully complete the course.”

Student Analytics offer the ‘Secret Sauce’

Dr. Jonathan Hilpert, Associate Professor, Educational Psychology, Department of Curriculum Foundations and Reading piloted the Student Success System within his Learning Theories course. “Some of my faculty colleagues were unconvinced of the usefulness of predictive analytics, fearing the standard error would be too large. I had a different mindset. Without further testing how could we know?”

Hilpert provided a baseline of data from five previous semesters to Burrell’s IT team, and together, they ran an analysis on the current course. By the time students were about 10 weeks into the course, the Brightspace Student Success System was predicting final performance with 70% accuracy.[1]

"Since we adopted the Brightspace Student Success System, every semester our advisors receive emails from students saying, ‘I graduated because you helped me identify where I was struggling and gave me the help I needed to be successful.’"

Dr. Christine Ludowise, Associate Dean of College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

The Results

Amazingly Close

The Georgia Southern team has been surprised by the patterns of behaviour the Brightspace Student Success System is revealing. Of the 53,000 data points gathered to date on 3,155 students, the tool is able to predict a passing final grade with 82% accuracy at the course midpoint. With accuracy improving as students progress through the course, the system is able to predict with 87% accuracy by the 16th week of a course.[2]

Like Turning on Lights in a Darkened Room

“Without these kinds of analytics, I like to say we are walking into a dark room filled with data with a spotlight. We can only focus on something narrow. The Brightspace Student Success System allows us to turn the lights on in the room to give everyone the ability to see the greater picture. The quality of our interventions will be much better, and we can more effectively move the needle on our retention and completion rates,” says Dr. Burrell.

[1] Data courtesy of Georgia Southern University
[2] Ibid.

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