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College Degrees, Designed By the Numbers

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data mining illustration

Credit: Randy Lyhus / The Chronicle

Colleges are starting to tap opportunities inherent in big data, using insights mined from information about students' performance to tailor courses and degrees. Arizona State University is at the forefront of this trend with applications such as eAdvisor, a degree-monitoring system that tracks students' performance in their majors, and flags them as "off-track" if they do not sign up for a key course or do well enough.

Meanwhile, Austin Peay State University has a robot adviser evaluate student profiles and direct students toward courses in which they are likely to succeed, before they register for classes. Underlying this system is software that merges each student's transcript with thousands of past students' grades and standardized test scores to generate suggestions. When students log into the online portal, they see 10 personalized course suggestions ranked on a five-star scale. "We're steering students toward the classes where they are predicted to make better grades," says provost and software programmer Tristan Denley.

Analysts expect that colleges will use data-mining technology to gain knowledge about all aspects of student life, including social situations, which have been shown to influence academic performance.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education
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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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