IU Bloomington faculty internationally recognized for student success research

Why do so many college students wait until senior year to take certain courses? Does the order of required courses influence student success? What causes students to change majors -- or leave an institution altogether?

Over the past four years, more than 40 Indiana University Bloomington faculty have taken part in learning analytics research projects to foster student retention, engagement and success on campus. IU faculty members were recognized at last month's Learning Analytics and Knowledge Conference in Sydney, Australia, for their contributions to the field.

The image caption followsView print quality image
IU faculty members were recognized at last month's Learning Analytics and Knowledge Conference in Sydney, Australia, for their contributions to student retention and engagement. Photo by Eric Rudd, IU Communications

"For the past several years, we've been using learning analytics methods to look closely at barriers to student success through 42 faculty studies," said Dennis Groth, vice provost for undergraduate education at IU Bloomington. "Once students are admitted to IU, we want to meet them with support to match their self-effort on their way to degree completion. Each of these studies looks at places where students may trip up, whether that's difficulty with performing well in a particular course, selecting or changing majors, dropping a class, or leaving IU altogether. Faculty involvement is critical to our continued efforts to better keep students on track."

IU Bloomington faculty's work to further student success was featured in a paper titled "Implementation of a Learning Analytics Fellows Program," which received the Best Practitioner Long Paper award from a review committee representing the Society for Learning Analytics Research, or SOLAR. The paper describes the process for establishing a program that has facilitated the work of the 42 Learning Analytics Fellows at IU Bloomington, who in collaboration with the Bloomington Assessment and Research Office have conducted scholarly research about teaching and learning, using learning analytics.  

The purpose of the studies is to better understand student success at the course, program and institutional levels. Their studies most often use student information systems data about student demographics, preparation and performance, along with the choices students make on their pathway toward graduation.

George Rehrey, director of IU's Center for Learning Analytics and Student Success, presented the paper at the conference. Co-authors were Groth; Linda Shepard, associate vice provost for the Bloomington Assessment and Research Office; Stefano Fiorini, lead research management analyst; and Carol Hostetter, professor of social work in the College of Arts and Sciences.

"During the past four years of the fellows program, we have witnessed individual projects that study student behavior within a particular course expand to collaborative research that spans courses, departments and schools," Rehrey said. Those projects include "Mitigating Grade Surprise," a study led by Jennifer Meta Robinson, which encompasses courses from five programs; and "Tracking Student Movement in the School of Public Health," led by Sarah Young.

"Of course, we look forward to hearing about the results of all the projects at our annual December event, where the 2018 fellows will share their projects in a forum open to the entire campus," Rehrey said. "And we encourage any interested faculty to apply for an individual or collaborative grant for the upcoming year."

Now in its eighth year, the Learning Analytics and Knowledge Conference is an annual international event sponsored by SOLAR, an interdisciplinary network of leading international researchers who are exploring the role and impact of analytics on teaching, learning and student success. This network supports collaborative and open research around learning analytics, promoting the publication and dissemination of learning analytics research, and advising and consulting with state, provincial and national governments. The conference provides a forum for presentations, research practices and knowledge exchange related to the transdisciplinary field of learning analytics.

For more information about IU Bloomington's Learning Analytics Fellows Program and the Center for Learning Analytics and Student Success, contact Rehrey at grehrey@indiana.edu or classiub@indiana.edu.