CSU adds additional cohort for 'student success analytics' certificate

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California State University this week announced it will open an additional cohort this fall for its student success analytics certificate after 500 participants signed up this spring.

Offered since 2018, the program contains a series of webinars and guest speakers focused on lessons like using analytics to boost completion or assess the effects of student success programs. The certification uses CSU’s student success dashboard, developed in-house, as its main “source material,” highlighting how to use the analytics system’s capabilities.

The program can serve as a space for administrators and instructors to discuss nascent data projects and take action, said Cynthia Alvarez, CSU’s assistant director for student success.

“It’s not just the work of one department, it’s not just the work of one person … it’s a “all-hands on deck” approach,” she said.

As the program has matured, more teams from university departments signed up with specific projects in mind, Alvarez said.

Learning how to use data pertaining to student success can be helpful in creating instructional models and in higher-level administration, said Nele Hempel-Lamer, who directs the certificate. By gathering and analyzing feedback from their students, she said, instructors can respond to student needs.

Participants are also interested in using analytics to address equity issues and guide transfer-student programs, Hempel-Lamer said. The number of transfer students has plummeted since the coronavirus pandemic hit, leaving many institutions looking for new strategies or supports to prevent further slide and bring students back.

Certificate-seekers also showed interest in how to assess communication with students, said Hemel-Lamer, who’s also a German literature professor. Colleges are increasingly investing in systems that track and proactively reach out to students — Modern Campus recently released a collection of pre-written text messages designed to nudge students to stay on track.

How those messages are perceived is important, Hempel-Lamer said, and data can highlight if messages cross the line from helpful to punitive.

“We don’t expect [participants] to care about numbers — we expect them to care about students,” she said.

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