How do the UMBC and Purdue systems compare? I watched the video demo of University of Maryland Baltimore County's CheckMyActivity analytics tool and compared it to John Campbell's presentation on Purdue's Signals, as well as Kimberly Arnold's EDUCAUSE piece on Signals.
Intuitiveness: SIGNALS. The use of color instantly symbolizes student grade status. The traffic light symbol is easy to understand and a powerful message and is really the genius of this system. The UMBC system, on the other hand, leverages the functionality of the course management system but, in so doing, also retains the somewhat IT-centric wording ("hits", "sessions," "generate report" and "get gradebook items") and the non-intuitive structure of the reports. It was difficult for me to quickly ascertain which column on the CheckMyActivity reports were the most important to focus in on for student performance (average hits per user? sessions?) ; so I'm sure that students probably have the same difficulty. Plus, you still must interpret what the numbers mean. You don't have to do that in Signals.
Visual Appeal: SIGNALS. The red/green/yellow colors are attractive and the interface looked more streamlined than UMBC's system . Plus, they have an attractive logo, and that's always a plus.
In-Your-Face quotient: SIGNALS by a landslide. Students have to take action to access the UMBC tool; with Signals, no additional action is necessary past logging in to the CMS, which they will do anyway. This is a limitation of UMBC's system. In fact, 16% of students in one course who responded to a survey said that they had never used UMBC CheckMyActivity at all. The fact that the red, yellow, and green lights are staring students in the face every time they log on to the CMS makes Signals impossible to ignore and therefore, students are probably more likely to follow up on the instructor's remediation suggestions.
Model-Building Quality: UNKNOWN. I would really like to see what data models lie behind each system, but I haven't found that information yet. UPDATE 2/9/2012: I suppose CheckMyActivity does not actually have any models upon which it is built. The students are only seeing the raw data of their log-ins to the course compared to the log-ins of people with grades of A, B, C, etc. Therefore UMBC's CheckMyActivity tool would be an example of "transaction only" level of sophistication rather than Purdue Signals' "predictive modeling" level of sophistication.