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We predict you'll pass your degree

Prediction of grades is nothing new. University places have been offered for generations based upon just that – a student’s predicted A- or AS level grades. But technology is changing the accuracy with which higher education institutions can predict if their students will pass or fail their degree courses - months before they actually do.

Learning analytics are becoming increasingly more deployable as students create digital footprints in our campuses. The volume of ‘big data’ collected is huge, but as with any raw information, it’s only useful if it can be analysed into meaningful evidence upon which to base decisions. The challenge is getting the right data to the right person at the right time in order to make a useful contribution to the learning process.

After speaking with Dr Mark Glynn, head of the teaching enhancement unit at Dublin City University last week, he explained that learning data within the university is helping them to predict if a student will pass at the end of the semester. How? By monitoring student interaction with the university’s VLE (Moodle), it is able to observe student engagement, look at historical data and build predictive models to see if the student is likely to pass. From the information, they can, with some degree of accuracy predict in October, if a student will pass in the following February. Trends and patterns in the data, coupled with data analysis from previous years, and facts and figures in conjunction with anecdotal evidence as well as feedback from students all helps to provide a picture of existing learners and their likelihood of passing.

Having this information to hand with five months to run until exam time means that there is still time to take corrective action to help those students who are in the danger zone. Retaining students is at the heart of the strategy – once a student begins studying, the university wants to help with engagement to see them through to the successful completion of their course. It shows that the university cares enough to take an interest in their studies, and potentially it also aids student satisfaction if they are able to get their qualification having paid fees for the privilege.

It may also have a knock-on effect with other friends or family fostering loyalty. Perhaps if a younger sibling plans to go to university in the future - he or she will still consider that institution a preferable option.

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