How to kick start the use of course-level data

An important step forward in student success

Since the launch of the Completion Agenda, community colleges have received countless calls to make data-informed decisions to promote student success. In response, leaders have invested heavily in institutional research and created teams dedicated to reviewing data on student outcomes, focusing on developmental education completion rates, fall-to-spring retention, gatekeeper course completion, and three-year graduation rates among many others. Despite the emphasis on collecting and analyzing data, there's no clear directive regarding what to do with it. As a result, some Community College Executive Forum members feel overwhelmed and refer to themselves as DRIP campuses: data rich, information poor.

For instance, colleges have struggled to engage faculty and academic leaders in analyzing course-level data, even though identifying bottleneck courses with high failure or withdrawal rates can help institutions ease the path to student completion.

Focus on improvement, not punishment or penalties

Unfortunately, faculty members often feel threatened or accused by some efforts to review their course- and section-level success rates. If professors feel the analysis of this data could compromise their job security or does not respect their autonomy as an instructor, colleges will struggle to engage faculty in these student success initiatives. Instead, institutions should adopt a constructive, improvement-focused approach to encourage positive change in pedagogy, the use of student services, and, ultimately, student outcomes.

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