Des Moines, Iowa, United States
Chris Gill is an experienced Chief Information Technology Officer at Drake University, with 24 years of progressively greater responsibility in information technology leadership within higher education. Working at the institution for the past three years, Gill presented his work with Drake’s Business Intelligence portal at Bb World 2018, which took place in Orlando (FL), last July, and also took some time to talk to E-Learn about today’s challenges in higher education, as well as reflecting on the future of learning analytics. Serving a new generation of learners who are digital at all times is the first challenge universities must address right now, Gill believes.
A midsized, private university in Des Moines, Iowa, Drake University offers the benefits and resources of a larger institution along with the advantages of intimate class sizes and close personal relationships. Drake enrolls more than 3,000 undergraduates and 1,800 graduate students from 45 states in the U.S. and more than 42 countries. Students can choose from more than 70 majors, minors, and concentrations and 20 graduate degrees offered through six schools and colleges. In addition, Drake’s offerings include a range of continuing education programs serving working professionals, community members, and businesses in the area. In order to process all that information and bring students the best educational experience, Drake University is constantly improving its learning analytics initiatives.
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Measurable Impacts of Analytics Use at Drake University
Drake University has an Academic Decision Support Tool. Its main goal is to empower deans, department chairs and the provost to make more effective resource allocation decisions across the university. See some of the areas the tool has impacted the most so far.
New Faculty Positions
The tool has changed the way that Drake’s academic units request either new or replacement faculty positions. The provost is now requiring or evaluating those requests in the context of enrollment and course utilization trends within the department.
The DFW report is enabling the university to look for ways to improve student success and student outcomes, prompting questions about courses or programs with high DFW rates and asking those units to look at the reasons, as well as what can be done to help make students successful in those programs. “In the early stages, we have already identified several areas where we can support those units in better evaluating their course guidelines and their student support practices to empower students to be more successful in those programs,” Gill explains.
Drake is changing the way they deal with budgets. The reports that are being developed are empowering budget managers to project and forecast their remaining budget throughout the fiscal cycle more effectively.
Analysis of yield over time, by a three-digit zip code, has been put together, helping the Admissions Office to evaluate and look with more detail where the university is gaining and losing admits and enrollees. The initiative is also enabling Drake to better target the resources that the university is putting into various territories to ensure they are yielding as much as possible.
There is a very close correlation with first semester or first year GPA (Grade Point Average) and retention into the second year. Students with low GPAs do not retain, and students with high GPA retain at much higher rates. In the middle, there is a significant leverage or balance point, where if students achieve above a certain GPA in their first semester, they are significantly more likely to retain. That is enabling Drake to begin to look at how the university is supporting students in their course load so they can succeed.
Drake has discovered that it is not just about students’ first year GPA, it is also about the variability between their average high school GPA and their first semester of college GPA. If they were a B or C student in high school and they get B or C grades in college, they are much more likely to retain. However, if they were an A student in high school and they are getting Cs in college, that GPA shock is significantly likely to impact their retention. “Right now, we are looking at how we can better watch for GPA shock – it can be an early warning indicator for us that we may have to intervene with students,” says Gill.
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Chris Gill, Chief Information Technology Officer at Drake University
AFP Scott A. Miller