Tuesday, February 14, 2012

#LAK12 Community colleges: the perfect candidates for LA

As illustrated by Vernon Smith's presentation on Rio Salado's implementation of LA, community colleges would serve as the perfect testbed/incubator/adopter of learning analytics. Here's why:

1) Community colleges are bursting at the seams. Taken as a group, they represent a very large population = large "n" for doing analytics.

2) Community college faculty, for the most part, are there to teach, not to do research. There is a pragmatic focus on student success. Therefore, there would probably be more buy-in at the faculty level for LA.

3) You have a larger "n" of "at risk" students. Percentage-wise, the"at-risk" students represent a larger chunk of the community college population since the barriers to entry (such as price and high school performance) are lower than those at a four-year college/university. Therefore, you would probably get more return on investment with implementation of LA due to increased retention of these students.

4) In terms of human development/capacity, the ROI would probably be much greater at the community college level too, as many CC students are first-generation college students. Retaining a greater number of these students would have huge positive implications for society at large. (especially if education helps them see the need for changing the system status quo)

In contrast, I work at a medical school where we have a huge barrier to entry and a population of only about 145 students per cohort. This is a small "n" and I don't believe retention is an issue at all. "Completion" is not our concern. Improved learning is our concern, but in terms of return on investment for American society, I think money spent on LA at the community college level would yield a greater payoff. (unless, that is, the federal government and medical schools start aggressively pursuing a different student population in hopes of solving the huge problem of lack of access to health care of rural and urban Americans...)

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