Online Data Could Help UW Detect Struggling Students


Now that a lot of courses are completed online, universities have access to more information than ever before. he University of Wisconsin is using that data to predict who is in danger of dropping out.

UW System’s two year colleges and universities in Madison and Platteville are sharing $650,000 of grant money to determine if students need help with their studies before their grades drop.UW System spokesman Dave Giroux says it is a three year pilot program designed to keep kids from doing poorly and potentially dropping out,”They’re looking to create an early warning system for students who exhibiting at-risk academic behavior that will trigger an intervention to hopefully improve their success, help them stay in college despite academic road bumps they may have hit.”

At UW-Platteville, the pilot program will be overseen by Associate Professor Keith Thompson. He says in certain large classes where students having difficulty might get overlooked, online academic activity will be tracked. “So, for an example, I post a homework [assignment]. I’m going to have some students that are going to download that homework right away, and then they might submit the solution pretty quickly. Then I might have other students that wait until the night before it’s due. Then they download the homework, and they start it. Well, if I were to look at the interactions, that tells me something about those students.”

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Thompson says currently the midterms are the first indication of whether a student may be struggling. By then, it can be too late to prevent a student from failing and having to repeat the course.