By Lyam Buchanan
Oct 04, 2018

Tracked for Success

A proposed “success coordinator” will use student data and patterns to identify and intervene with students who are at risk of dropping out. A new coordinated approach would utilise data gathered by key university systems—such as Moodle, the Library, and WiFi—to identify disengaged students and proactively provide help; instead of relying on students to actively seek support. Our initial reaction was that it sounded a little too 1984, so we caught up with Director of Student Services Mike Calvert to gain some more insight.

Nexus: What does this role entail and how will it benefit the student body?

MC: The concept of a success coordinator is not a new one; there are already a number of staff and students around the University that have similar responsibilities. This particular role is slightly different because the postholder will act on a new data set that we are developing which uses unstructured data to assess a student’s level of engagement. In the first instance, this will be information about the number of times a person has accessed one of three key systems: Moodle, Library, and WiFi. Disengaged students will be deemed those that have not accessed these systems at all in a given week or have perhaps done so infrequently. Up to now, success coordinators and other staff providing support have relied on students actively seeking support or referrals from other staff. The hope is that, with this new data, we can proactively reach out to students and, should they be willing to accept the support, direct them to the most appropriate person or resource. We hope to learn more about what makes some students engage in their studies and what makes them disengage so that we can tailor our services to meet the needs of our students more effectively.

Nexus: How is the data required for this role collected? How is it utilised?

MC: The data is the unstructured data that forms the log files for those core systems. It has already been collected. We’ll just be bringing the data together to form an assessment of engagement on a week by week basis. It’s likely that the success coordinator will work their way through a list of the least engaged students each week and contact them to see if they need some support. The service will be confidential and there would be no obligations for students to share any information or to access the support services, but it might just make the difference for a student who is on the verge of throwing in the towel.

Nexus: Are there any concerns regarding privacy as a result of this data being collected?

MC: There’s still some work for us to do on this and some legal advice that we’ll need to seek. We don’t think there’s an issue but we’re cognisant that the data we are proposing to use was not collected for the purpose to which we’ll be putting it. We’ll put privacy first and, of course, students will have the option to let us know that they don’t want to be contacted or offered support through this initiative.

Nexus: What impact is this role expected to have?

MC: There are three things we want to achieve; a better understanding of why students disengage with their studies, the opportunity to increase awareness of support services proactively and to facilitate access to that support, and gain a better understanding of what support services are most effective for students.

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