WWU harnesses 'big data' to help students succeed
By Josh Holloway
Intern, WWU University Communications and Marketing
Western Washington University is the first university in the state to test the Student Success Collaborative, a pilot program that will provide data analysis to university administrators about trends in students’ academic performance.
Western is one of 22 universities in the country participating in the pilot. The program is still in the testing phase at Western and plans are to start using it in fall 2013.
The Student Success Collaborative is a “big data” initiative that analyzes the past decade of student performance at Western. The goal is to use data analysis to identify courses where students tend to get stuck or slowed down on their way to graduation, and to find the pathways and support services that most enable a student to be successful.
If administrators and deans can see where groups of students are getting stuck in majors programs, they can take steps to improve Western’s graduation rates, said Steve VanderStaay, vice provost for undergraduate education.
VanderStaay said university administrators are easily able to see when a single student is having problems, but have had difficulty in spotting larger trends in student performance.
The program also provides information that will enable advisers to help students choose their majors more quickly. By looking at where other students who have taken similar courses succeeded, advisers can suggest similar majors or courses.
Also, advisers will be able to see if students are having problems through their major and offer them help before the students fall too far behind.
The program is a collaboration of Academic Affairs and Enrollment and Student Services.