Recently I travelled to Utah State University’s 3rd Annual Empowering Teaching Excellence Conference — a conference by the faculty, for the faculty. Utah State University joined the Civitas Learning community of schools in order to impact “student success and retention, documenting teaching and learning, and institutional decision-making.” I was able to spend the day on campus talking about Civitas Learning’s Student Success Platform (SSP) with a group of faculty, and then spent a session over lunch with a group of individuals from across the institution; in particular, faculty researchers, library resource educators, and those from institutional analytics. We discussed how they will be leveraging Civitas Learning’s SSP to analyze data more quickly, and provide actionable insights to those who need the information most.
Integrating Canvas LMS Data
Of great interest to me in my role is the vision Utah State University has for its use of our data mart product, called Explore™. Utah State University is a pioneer in utilization of, and research within, Instructure’s Canvas Learning Management System (LMS). Given the proximity of Instructure’s headquarters to the USU campus, the relationship has benefitted from a close geographical proximity from the early days of development of the Canvas LMS. Analysts and faculty at USU have developed very sophisticated tools to explore student behaviors in the LMS environment. In particular, Dr. Mimi Recker, professor in the department of Instructional Technology & Learning Sciences and her graduate students have substantially advanced the research literature on learning management systems in higher education. A challenge for the research team, however, has been the difficulty federating the Canvas LMS data with elements from other campus systems.
Utah State’s deep involvement with Canvas is particularly advantageous, given Civitas Learning’s direct, cloud-based integration with Instructure. Our partnership with Instructure enables institutions like Utah State to have their LMS data quickly synthesized into their instance of the Student Insights Engine, opening up ready access to rich student behavioral insights that are often highly predictive of student outcomes.
Explore™ Provides Broader Data Access
Explore™ brings together all the core elements of the Civitas Learning platform layer in an accessible data structure, giving our partners newfound freedom to explore. Explore™:
Expands analytics access and research capabilities to document and visualize student success
Provides broader access to institutional data and insights for tailoring analytical and data use cases
Extends the value of data from other Civitas Learning applications
This new level of direct access to key data, predictions and features in the Student Insights Engine enables our partners to combine platform data elements so they can research patterns and trends, and explore new derived data possibilities. The flexibility of Explore™ allows freedom to utilize tools they’ve developed, or other third-party applications like Tableau, SAS, R, etc.
A solution of this nature has never before been comprehensively deployed in higher education at this scale. Civitas Learning’s Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) process provides readily accessible data elements federated from previously disparate data systems. Data Mart also provides all the derived variables inherent to the Civitas Learning modeling process. Access to student-level derived variables like Change in GPA, Credits Attempted Ratios, and our high precision student persistence predictions provide a whole new data arena to inform confident action, improve institutional decision-making, and enable strategic prioritization.
The combination of Civitas Learning’s Canvas integration, Explore’s advanced data capabilities, and a pioneering partner like USU envisages exciting possibilities for both improving student outcomes at USU, and inspiring our broader community of practice with insights and opportunities.
The vision our project champion John Louviere is bringing to USU’s partnership with Civitas Learning is providing great momentum for our relationship together. John shared with me the excitement USU has in adopting the Civitas Learning platform and solutions in order to change the way USU can support student success on campus. Our Inspire for Advisor application has become a cornerstone for advising support, and Illume will provide immediate opportunity to build campaigns around students who need supports the most. Illume Impact will provide USU the platform to test the efficacy of interventions using prediction-based propensity score matching, a technique that meets the Institute of Education Science’s What Works Clearinghouse standards for efficacy testing.
As an Explore™ institution, USU’s ready access to a comprehensive view of student-level information – federated from their student information system, Canvas LMS, and other once-disparate student data systems – positions USU as a leader in the use of institutional data.
I want to applaud the work of our partners at USU and I look forward to where the student success data journey leads as we continue our work together!
Dr. Eric McIntosh
Dr. Eric McIntosh is the research director for Civitas Learning. With a professional background in student affairs, Eric has worked for institutions of varying types and sizes understanding the intersection of students’ academic journeys and lives. An active researcher, Eric’s research interests include access issues in higher education, spirituality in higher education, transfer student integration, student thriving, and student success. Since 2007, Eric has been involved in research on student thriving; a research initiative of the Doctoral Programs in Higher Education at Azusa Pacific University.