Driving a New Dialogue with Students: How Predictive Analytics is Transforming Progression and Achievement for K-12 Educators

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Today’s K–12 educators are focused on ensuring that students at each grade level are well-prepared to enter the workforce or pursue higher education. In the state of Colorado, it is our mandate. Clearly-defined goals for student learning, along with focused formative and summative assessments and activities that drive mastery of content, are mission-critical in these formative education years. Add in the ability to map these learning goals or objectives to state or national standards, and educators are primed with the tools to truly create the conditions needed for student success.

It’s the ultimate strategy, if you will, that will mitigate the need for remedial courses and deliver college- and career-ready learners into higher education institutions and the world of work. Or is it? With the technology becoming available to truly pursue this strategy, is something missing?

In an effort to provide the best educational opportunities in Colorado through a quality online learning experience, we at Academy Online High School (AOHS) asked ourselves those very questions. Founded in 2008 to serve students from grades 9 -12, AOHS clearly understood the importance of identifying specific learning goals for students and assessing individual achievement against those benchmarks. However, what we found missing was some kind of method or mechanism to help facilitate a deeper understanding and assessment of each student’s progress toward each learning goal or objective. Inherent in that progression-driven dynamic was also the need to evaluate learners regularly while also delivering the ability to communicate constructive feedback in a more meaningful and impactful manner—and not just to students, but to parents and teachers as well.

Analytics Essentials – It’s not just about GradesAnalytics Essentials – It’s not just about Grades

With the progression of learning being an integral part of a meaningful education at AOHS/ASD20—and given our firm commitment to drive a new dialogue between our students, their parents, and my staff—we sought a tool that could not only effectively visualize a learner’s progression against our state and national standards but also quickly identify learners who are at risk of not mapping to defined learning goals or objectives as early as possible in their academic journey. The Desire2Learn Insights™ Student Success System (S3)™ tool was the immediate answer.

By harvesting the data already available in our Desire2Learn Learning Environment implementation, the Student Success System tool delivers not only a rich visualization of progression against our learning objectives but also a predictive analytics component that calculates projected learner success to that goal so that instructors can trend overall learner performance and plan for any remediation efforts before students even know they need help. Using predictive analytics technology in this manner, educators can now gain a richer understanding of the individual aspects of learning that contribute to student success and also help refine progression towards mastery on a learner per learner basis—including learning data from engagement, social learning, and academic performance (grades) domains.

GradesInsights Student Success System Weekly Predicted Success Index

After a successful participation in Desire2Learn’s Early Adopter Program in the fall of 2013, the Student Success System is now being rolled out across all Academy Online course sections and I am happy to say that we’re now in a very meaningful place in our communications with our 9th-12th grade learning community. Educators are drawing on the insights that the predictive visualizations deliver to prepare reports for our students and parents that are much more powerful and prescriptive in their communication of learner progression. By delivering a more impactful narrative around individual assessment, achievement, and participation in their learning journey, the Student Success System is enabling our educators to communicate very discreet guidance on what students can do to improve and achieve their learning goals right where it counts most – right at the moment of learning.

Even though we are a thoroughly online learning environment, the power of the Student Success System’s predictive modeling capabilities is that it is adaptable and customizable to our institution’s unique instructional approach – one that encourages instructor improvements as well. In a standards-based learning, teaching, and reporting model, instructors are evaluated based on student growth and achievement. Rich visualizations of learner progression provide educators with a measurement of their own performance as well.

Insights S3 Grades Target- Mapping Grades and Assessments to StandardsInsights S3 Grades Target- Mapping Grades and Assessments to Standards

Given that Academy Online is committed to a new dialogue on progression and achievement, it is obvious that it should include a strategy to help ensure effective teaching in every type of classroom as well. Delivering the tools and technology that can assist with any needed changes in instructional practices—particularly as they directly relate to student progression and achievement—is helping AOHS use predictive analytics to remove pedagogical weaknesses on a much more fluid basis.

As we move through this winter session and on to future semesters, we are working diligently with the product development folks at D2L to build a richer student interface that will allow a more proactive, learner-driven model of progress monitoring. While our students are excited and somewhat intrigued by this funky new tool, the ultimate end goal we are looking for is using the predictive component to drive a new dialogue with our students that is foundational on continuous progress improvement. Something to the effect of—here’s my learning goal, here’s how I can track progress to meet those goals, and here’s how I am progressing on day-by-day basis.

The Student Success System’s predictive analytics technology is helping AOHS move beyond simple grade or point contributions as an indicator of content or skills mastery and providing teachers with the opportunity to define and deliver feedback in much more meaningful way. We are extremely excited about how this tool is helping educators guide student interaction and achieve the desired learning outcome and most importantly, right in the learning moment.