Education Technology

Where to Start with Student Success Initiatives


  • D. Christopher Brooks, Director of Research, EDUCAUSE
  • Leah Lang, Director of Analytics Services, EDUCAUSE
  • Kathe Pelletier, Director of Student Success Community Programs, EDUCAUSE


  • Buzz about student success initiatives?
  • Brief tour of data and definitions
  • Student success maturity and tech deployment maship
  • End users, students & advisors

Are Student Success Initiatives Worth It?

Presenters tossed this question to the audience via a poll:

  • Recruiting & retention tool
  • Surface implementation of StarFish
  • Fragmented, not everything “fits into” student success

Some headlines say guided pathways are effective, others say early-warning systems are a mixed bag…sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Jury is out on nudging efforts. Implementation is NOT just technology work, it’s human work. Implementation is not the same as adoption! This work takes significantly more effort.

DCB shared a slide about some of his initial research on IPAS. Central IT units were among of the first groups that had the ability to put these kinds of systems into practice (i.e. they manage the course systems and other enterprise systems). Strong leadership was a big contributing factor to successful projects. Example includes president support of efforts at Colorado State. The end users (faculty and students) were comparatively left out of the process with these initial rollouts. As IPAS has evolved over the last few years, working with NASPA and other higher education organizations has significantly taken concerns (and limitations) about the growing use of student success tools into account. There are significant differences/concerns among Student Affairs, IR ad IT professionals agreement with respect to their statements on data and analytics.

Today’s Mashup: CDS and eTrack

  • CDS gathers data on IT service maturity, tech deployment, etc.
  • ETrack gathers data on student impressions & use of technology.

LL shared the kinds of questions that make up the CDS survey questions that measure Student Success Technology Maturity, technology deployments, both for students and faculty. We’re in a state of being fairly well established for student success maturity (leadership support, collaboration & culture, process and decision-making). We have a rubric for each dimension of maturity. Degree auditing is the most mature of the deployed technologies; it’s “mainstream” at 61% – 80% adopted.

There are four key end-users of the consumers of these services: advising and student affairs, faculty, students, IR and leadership Areas at the higher end of the maturity level are those that have deployed more of the technology.

Technologies for Students

  • Degree audit
  • Credit transfer & articulation systems
  • Education plan and tracking (popping up in the last two years)

DCB talked about focus of initiatives in support of student success. Groups researched include 1st year students, sophomores, transfer-in students, student athletes, students of color, LGBTQIA students, nontraditional students, 1st generation students. These populations were measured against student pipeline, academic progress & success, efficiency of degree completion, career pathways & postgrad outcomes, and student ability to afford higher education. Longitudinally speaking (2017-2019), student have positive ratings of the usefulness of online student success tools. Interestingly, I noticed that the highest-rated items are those that address traditional “checklist” items that are administratively important to graduation.

Technologies for Advising and Student Affairs

  • Student advising and case management (big gaps in maturity here)
  • Degree auditing

Staff with access to student-level data from institutions’ early-alert systems. Most impact to academic advisors, faculty advisors, counseling services, FYE staff, tutoring services, senior leaders, and to a lesser extent res life staff and recreation services. Interventions in use at institutions to improve student access include academic advising, referrals to student services, counseling, intrusive advising, program development, roommate mediation/placement, and “nudge” campaigns. We may need a rethink of how we do advising.

Takeaways and Lessons from the Field

  • If you don’t have degree audit, you should do that!
  • Deployment and adoption are not the same thing.
  • Continuous improvement culture will really help you determine where you need to build, pivot agains, or trash altogether.
  • Diverse and visible leadership is important to success.
  • This is human work.

By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

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