Strayer University Applies Predictive Analytics to Improve Student Success in Online Education

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AUSTIN, TEX. (May 18, 2016) — Strayer University has released results of a three-year partnership focused on identifying the factors that influence student success within online programs. Developed in collaboration with student-success analytics innovator Civitas Learning®, the findings often buck conventional wisdom, suggesting that data captured through a student’s digital footprints can provide better predictors of success than the typical demographic data points.

Over the last several years, Strayer University has partnered with Civitas Learning to federate data from disparate sources across the institution. These diverse data sources were pulled together in Civitas Learning’s Student Insights Platform™, where they are optimized to fuel institution-specific predictive models that provide insights to inform and guide the development and deployment of student success initiatives. At Strayer University, the focus was on identifying the most promising initiatives to increase student and faculty engagement, improving behavioral mindsets, and closing the gap between on-ground and online course success rates.

“The early phases of working with Civitas Learning’s scientists were an exciting time of exploration and discovery, especially when we identified that success is better predicted by student engagement and effort – rather than the old standards of income, demographics, part-time status, or other static factors that are widely discussed,” said Joe Schaefer, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Strayer Education, Inc., parent company to Strayer University.

With approximately 80% of their students choosing to take some or all classes online, Strayer generates unique snapshots of the progress students make each day, measures the time spent in online learning activity compared to their classmates, captures the number and type of posts within a student forum, and the times of day that a student logs into their study portal. When combined, these and hundreds of other data points help bring into focus a more complete picture of a student’s work style, communication preferences, and opportunities for support and motivation.

To be able to take measurable action on their insights, Strayer was a founding user of a faculty-facing application also developed by Civitas Learning, called Inspire for Faculty. In a pilot with its highest-risk students, Strayer University used Inspire for Faculty to personalize outreach through highly-targeted and specifically timed messages designed to catch students before they went off course. Compared to a control group identified using propensity score matching, the most at-risk students experienced a 5% increase in attendance, 8% decrease in course drop rate, 12% increase in course success and a 17% decrease in the overall number of students considered at-risk.

“Historically, online faculty have had very limited insight into whether their outreach to students led to incremental or substantial benefits—or none at all. With sophisticated analytics and faculty dashboards, we can support much higher levels of faculty interaction to engage students and replicate an experience that is more like an on-ground course,” added Schaefer. “This analytics layer allows us to deliver encouraging messages at the moments when students need support, measure what’s working and change course as needed.”

A trailblazer in the application of online education for working adult students, Strayer has been a leader in the use of learning analytics to enhance student experience and outcomes. The university first began its analytics partnership with Civitas Learning in 2013 as a member of the original pioneer cohort of six colleges and universities that piloted the Student Insights Platform™ as beta users and collaborators.

“From day one of our work together, the team at Strayer University has been completely focused on being a model of quality, access and outcomes focus in online education,” said Dr. Mark David Milliron, Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer at Civitas Learning. “Their commitment to student-success science has enabled them to deliver interventions and inspirations to students at the right time in the right way, helping reduce the historical divide between face-to-face and online education. We’re proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them as they work to help diverse students grow and learn—supported by data and innovation.”

About Strayer University:
Founded in 1892, Strayer University is a proprietary institution of higher learning that offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in business administration, accounting, information technology, education, health services administration, nursing, public administration, and criminal justice, to working adult students. The University includes Strayer@Work, which serves corporate clients by delivering the next generation of performance improvement and workforce development. Strayer University also offers an executive MBA online and corporate training program through its Jack Welch Management Institute. Strayer University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. (267-284-5000). The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

For more information on Strayer University visit

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