AUSTIN, TEX. (May 22, 2012) – Today, Civitas Learning® announces its launch and a new approach to improving key academic outcomes in higher education. Working closely with community colleges, four-year universities, and proprietary schools, Civitas Learning is combining diverse student demographic, behavioral, and academic information with the latest analysis and recommendation technologies, and sophisticated data modeling approaches to transform institutional data into recommendations that support smarter decisions throughout the student lifecycle. The Austin-based company has raised $4.1 million in funding from Austin Ventures, First Round Capital, and Floodgate to help bring the big data revolution to higher education.
Civitas Learning was founded by Charles Thornburgh, a former senior executive at Kaplan, Inc. where he spent nine years as an in-house entrepreneur, launching several EdTech businesses in the K12 and higher education markets. Early in his career he founded Testtakers.com, an education technology startup that developed the first rich-media, prescriptive online SAT prep tutoring application, and ClickSafety.com, a market leader in online safety training.
“Our academic leaders and faculty have a passion for improving student outcomes, but higher education currently lacks the common data infrastructure necessary to develop, assess, and iterate scalable solutions that have a broad and lasting impact,” said Charles Thornburgh, CEO, Civitas Learning. “Even well-intentioned investments in innovative online learning platforms, or richly supportive interventions, can’t realize their full potential without the ability to carefully measure their impact on learning, course completion, and degree attainment.”
Civitas Learning is working with more than a dozen institutions, including Austin Community College and University of Maryland University College, to unlock the potential of their data to drive improved student outcomes. Already the company has amassed the largest cross-institutional learning data set in the industry – with over one million student records and over seven million course records. In addition to using the Civitas Learning tools, member institutions will have the ability to create their own learning apps based on the Civitas Learning Community’s application programming interfaces. This community-driven learning analytics approach will transform the way data is used across the higher education landscape.
Benefits to Institutions
Member institutions of the Civitas Learning Community will be able to identify trends across enormous volumes of student learning data, and translate these insights into consumable, real-time recommendations. Among other benefits, these insights will:
- Allow for a real-time view of which students are at risk of dropping out, and why
- Identify specific courses and degree paths that may be contributing to attrition
- Reveal which resources and interventions are being most successful, and for which students
“Higher education has long been the champion of critical exploration, creative thinking, and innovative research for her students,” added Dr. Mark Milliron, the Chancellor of Western Governors University Texas who serves on the Civitas Learning Board along with Adam Dell, venture partner at Austin Ventures. “Civitas will create a powerful community of teachers, leaders, and students better armed with quality data and strategic insights to bring these same skills to bear in tackling one of the biggest challenges in the US: expanding access to and improving success in American higher education. I couldn’t be more excited about the potential of this work.”
Benefits to Faculty
As student demographics change and learning modalities expand to include online and hybrid options, faculty often find themselves with very little actionable data on which to plan for new responsibilities like advising and interventions — and awkward interfaces for educational tools and complicated reports lacking context can exacerbate the problem. To help them cut through this fog, faculty apps built on the Civitas Learning platform will:
- Flag which students may be at risk, based on real-time engagement data, and provide informed intervention suggestions
- Offer examples of outreach and intervention resources that have historically driven engagement for students like theirs
- Provide a window into which of their instructional techniques or curricular resources are resonating best for students
“We have numerous projects on campus that are geared toward reducing attrition, increasing student persistence, and identifying interventions to improve course completion and graduation rates,” said Kathleen E. Christensen, Ph.D, Vice President, Student Support and Success Systems, Austin Community College. “We feel that Civitas Learning can give us insight into the effectiveness of these initiatives, as well as the ability to help faculty and staff apply resources and support more effectively to improve these outcomes.”
Benefits to Students
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 75% of today’s students are juggling some combination of families, jobs, and school while commuting to class, so it’s imperative they make the best use of their time in school. Civitas Learning’s predictive student apps will impact students directly – at the moment they are making key decisions so that they stay on track, successfully complete courses and graduate, including:
- Providing personalized recommendations on degree and course selection
- Alerting students about course combinations that have proven challenging in the past
- Advising on optimal sequencing of courses to improve chances of success
- Offering proactive recommendations to students on how to spend time during their courses and which resources to use, based on other students’ results
“At UMUC, our primary value is ‘Students First.’ With this in mind, we are excited about the potential for this partnership to bring predictive analytics directly to students to help them make better choices from which courses to take to how best to spend their study time,” said Javier Miyares, Acting President, University of Maryland University College.