If you’re reading this article, I’m guessing right now your inbox is flooded with messages from EdTech vendors (I’ll go ahead and admit, some of them are probably from us) trying to solve “student success”. Would I be right? But what exactly is “student success”? If I asked each of you reading this article to define “student success” odds are each of you would provide a different answer. Occam’s Razor might suggest that student success can be defined as simply as “This student graduated, but this other student did not. Therefore, this student was successful but the other was not.” 20 – even 10 – years ago that might have been an acceptable answer for some. Today though, student success is far more nebulous. One article I enjoyed in Esource for College Transitions made an interesting point; student success defined through a focus on the key word – success – “a favorable or desired outcome”. Student success, then, could be defined as a favorable or desired student outcome. That leads to the question, “What is a favorable or desired student outcome at my institution?” Is it retention and persistence? Student advancement? Or perhaps “producing a well-rounded graduate”? For example: What student success looks like at Sacramento State is very different from what student success looks like at Dartmouth, or at Tarleton State, or Thomas More College, and so on and so forth for every college and university in the country.  Why? Because each campus is different and the student experiences at each campus are different. Each varies in terms of size, location, offerings, culture, etc… All presenting unique influences that impact how students may be successful. So, achieving a “favorable or desired student outcome” isn’t just a complicated problem, but one that’s unique to each university. Still, time and time again I see vendors touting their offerings as the silver bullet that will surely “solve” student success in its entirety for any institution. What many fail to realize is what we’ve just elaborated: that student success isn’t static. It changes, sometimes by the day. Not all programs or initiatives work the same everywhere. I.e., that really cool initiative that worked at Arizona State might fail utterly at your institution! Instead, much like we ask our students to not simply memorize and regurgitate material – but instead to work towards understanding and applying that knowledge – we too have to examine, understand, and apply the knowledge and capabilities of multiple tools that are an appropriate fit for our institutions. So then, which tool – or set of tools – is right for yours? To quote my favorite answer from students (and professors) during my tenure in the graduate program at the University of Tennessee; “It depends”. It depends on what you need to accomplish, what existing infrastructure allows for, the capabilities of your team, and what gels with your institution’s culture and policies. It may further depend on what the current or expected regulations may be. Each of these parameters play a significant role in how we enable and empower success for our students. Not only is the student success problem complicated, but the solutions we’re bombarded with can appear equally complicated, if not more so. One look at the landscape of EdTech – like this table from Eduventures – and you can see how it’s easy to get overwhelmed (I’ll wait while you zoom in).
With all these offerings from vendors – some which spill into more than one area – there is often confusion on where Degree Analytics fits into the equation and how its different from the others. In this 3-part series, I’ll shed some light on these topics by giving a simple breakdown of:
  • What current technologies are out there that can help support student success,
  • Where Degree Analytics falls relative to others, and
  • How we work with other existing tools
Part 1 Preview: What’s out there and what do they do? In the upcoming Part 1 of this series, I’ll break down the different categories into which we can divvy up various EdTech that supports student success. To keep things simple, I’ll use some major categories most of you will be familiar with or, hopefully, you’ll have at least heard the acronyms thrown around:
  • Student Information Systems (SIS)
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS)
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Platforms
  • Business Intelligence (BI)/Visualization (Viz) Platforms
  • Advising Platforms
  • Classroom Collaboration
  • Mobile Applications
  • Analytics Companies
Stay tuned!

Marc Speed / About the Author

Marc is a founding member of Degree Analytics and serves the company as Director of Strategic Partnerships. His focuses include new business development and aligning Degree Analytics’ capabilities and services with the strategic goals and institutional missions of partners. He has spent his career using data to drive strategic and financial decision making in manufacturing, healthcare, and higher education. Marc believes every student has the capability to be successful and obtain the degree of their choice – all they need is a little support from the right places at the right time.