Colleges are using big data to predict which students will do well

Kylie Lacey's picture
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Students at America's high schools, colleges, and universities are well into their first semesters. But while they plow through their assigned readings and write essays, administrators are turning their grades and their professors' evaluations into millions upon millions of tiny data points. Much like every other field in the world, education is embracing big data--only, this time, they're using it to determine who will thrive in college, who will fail, and who will need some extra help.

David Wright is Wichita State University's (WSU) Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. In his position, Wright is responsible for overseeing the vast amounts of data WSU uses to track student and faculty performance. Like a growing number of American educational institutions, Wichita State uses predictive analysis tools to optimize their offerings and steer help to students who need it.

“We know our data better than an outside agency. We know the business practices in our system better, which outside vendors don't do, and this allows us to do more with the data than them,” Wright tells Co.Exist. Using data points such as a student's paper grades, the amount of hours he or she is enrolled during each semester, whether they're working part-time or full-time or not at all, the amount of assistance from family and a host of other factors, WSU can predict which students are likely to encounter problems.

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