Harnessing data to make a difference
GSU’s transformation has been built on a foundation of data and analytics
. Over the past decade, the student success program has used evidence-based methods to implement large-scale interventions to give students the personalized support they need.
At first, the information used to guide these interventions mainly came from GSU’s student information system (SIS), which provides insight into students’ finances, course choices and academic progress. But over the past two academic years, the student success team realized it needed finer-grained data on student activity and engagement. In collaboration with GSU’s SIS, the university’s learning management system (LMS), D2L Brightspace, provided the perfect source for this additional information.
Dr. Renick comments: “As an institution, we’re committed to big targets, such as raising the graduation rates by a certain number of points over the next several years, eliminating equity gaps, and so forth. But to move those numbers, we need to monitor and improve dozens of proximate metrics that are early indicators.” With D2L Brightspace, advisors can identify students at risk and provide the additional support needed to keep them engaged and on track.
For example, when COVID-19 struck in 2020 and GSU pivoted all its courses to a fully online model, data from D2L Brightspace gave GSU vital insight into the impact on student success. For established students, who were already acclimatized to academic life at GSU, the switch to an online modality had a net positive effect—graduation rates went up by three percentage points during the pandemic.
“About 80% of Georgia State students work, and many are also parents or have other obligations,” says Dr. Renick. “Using D2L Brightspace to deliver classes at scale online means they don’t have to commute to downtown Atlanta through the traffic. So, while the pandemic created a lot of challenges, the online modality may actually have helped the performance level and participation levels for our existing juniors and seniors.”
Diagnosing first-year difficulties
However, for the new cohort of students who enrolled for their first year at GSU during the pandemic, their experience revealed a different story. The student success team noticed a worrying trend that log-on rates for the new first-years were much lower than those of established students.
“We used that data to guide targeted interventions—we had 30,000 instances where advisors reached out to students because they weren’t logging on to the LMS,” says Dr. Renick. “Even so, we ultimately saw a significant increase in non-pass rates for first-year students in critical classes like introductory math and English composition.”
The student success team didn’t let it go. They set up a new summer program that provided support for 600 first-year students to retake the courses they had failed. Of those students, 400 students gained grades of C or above the second time around, putting their studies back on track before the start of their sophomore year.
“In fact, around 100 of the students got an A grade in the courses they had previously failed,” says Dr. Renick. “That’s a sobering statistic because it shows just how devastating the impact of the pandemic was for even the most academically capable new students.”