It's All in the Data

"The University System of Maryland determined four years ago that it needed a unified strategy for improving student success through standardized data collection and analysis at its 12 campuses -- including the flagship University of Maryland campus near Washington, smaller rural locations and historically black colleges. While the main campus maintains a highly selective enrollment process, some others with large proportions of minority and low-income students struggle with lower retention and graduation rates," Inside Higher Ed reports.

"'We [needed] to understand … what does it mean when we put interventions into place?' said M.J. Bishop, director of the system’s center for academic innovation, during a panel at last week’s Educause conference here. 'How do we know whether or not we’re making a difference when we put these interventions into place?'

What followed was a process of introspection and realignment that the system’s leaders believe has moved the campuses toward a level playing field: standardizing disparate definitions for student success data and identifying areas where students need more help than they’re getting, particularly in the classroom and before they arrive on campus for the first time.

Evolving Priorities

The system’s Board of Regents convened an academic innovation task force years earlier to address what Bishop said during the Educause conference was 'low-hanging fruit' -- issues of effectiveness and efficiency including pursuing energy certification for campus buildings, fixing procurement systems and printing fewer documents on paper.

The focus then shifted to the ongoing desire to close achievement gaps for students. The system wanted to get away from what Bishop called 'rearview mirror' analysis -- wondering why, for example, a student left an institution after two years -- and toward taking proactive steps to improve learners’ academic experiences and ensure retention."

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Publication Date: 11/9/2017

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