There’s a ton of student data out there. How do you act on it to better help students succeed? Read on to find out.
Data is changing education, and there’s no shortage of student data that instructors and institutions can use to improve the learning process. When it comes to fostering student success, what’s most important is how you define student engagement, and how you decide to act on the data you collect.
Why is data important for student success and where is it coming from?
In a course, data includes everything from grades and attendance records, to behaviors in the classroom, like how many times a student raises their hand or participation in a group discussion.
As online education has become more prevalent, it’s forced a shift in thinking about student engagement and what data is available and how it can be used. There are many data points that can be gleaned from online learning that couldn’t be captured offline in the classroom. When a student uses a learning environment, for example, they leave lots of footprints behind, like log-in data, what pages they’re clicking on, how many times they clicked, how long they’re on a page and when they leave a page.
How can you use data to understand student engagement?
The data you use will mostly depend on how your course is structured. In a lecture-based biology course with no online presence, for example, it’s about how the physical class performs—quiz and exam scores, as well as attendance and classroom interactions.
In a blended, flipped or online classroom environment, what materials are downloaded or viewed by a student in advance of a classroom discussion, for example, can give a good sense of student engagement—instructors can see which students did and didn’t do their homework. In those situations, how you’re using your online presence will dictate the kinds of data you can collect.
When analyzed the right way, the data will start to tell a story about student engagement, creating more detailed snapshots of what’s going on in a classroom or online, and giving instructors insights into behaviors that they might not have seen otherwise.
For example, in a blended learning program, students who aren’t actively participating in a classroom discussion might still be logging in and reading all the content and materials that were assigned to prepare for that discussion. Data can reveal those kinds of interesting, hidden patterns and empower instructors to better understand student engagement around such activities.
Armed with those insights, instructors can then decide what they need to change to help increase engagement and improve individual performance.
How do I use engagement data to drive student success?
Data around student engagement is critical for informing how and what teachers teach—are learning activities popular? Are they leading to good scores on assessments? How well are students doing on tests? Is the pedagogical approach working? Where are students succeeding or failing most? In what ways are they connecting with other students?
Gauge student performance
Teachers can also use engagement data to identify how well an individual student’s performing, using specific thresholds, like grades for instance, to determine if they’re doing well and should be sent a note from the instructor acknowledging their success, or if they’re slipping and need the instructor to intervene.
Start with a goal
Whichever way the data’s used, data-informed decision-making is most effective if instructors have laid out a goal even before they’ve started collecting data. If they want students to succeed and to reach every learner (and what instructor doesn’t?), they need to define what that looks like, both to themselves and the institution. Starting off with that understanding and a clear goal will help them to determine what they’re going to measure to assess engagement and how they should act on the data they accumulate.
Create teachable moments
When that decision is made, the data they gather then becomes the point at which they can begin to address whether they need to adjust their pedagogical approach, or intervene with an individual student and what that intervention will look like. Data should be used to create teachable moments both for the student and the teacher.
Focus on feedback
At the end of the day, it comes down to feedback—students crave it and they want it quickly. The more teachers delay, the more students panic and the more their performance is affected. If students can get feedback quickly they can improve more quickly, and if used effectively, student data can offer up an extremely detailed perspective on whether students are performing up to standard. Actively gathering and analyzing it makes instructors that much nimbler.
Here’s how Oral Roberts University is using data to provide better insights into student engagement and performance:
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