Marist College Identifies at Risk Students with Predictive Analytics, Increases Degree Completion Rates

The Open Academic Analytics Initiative (OAAI) at Marist College positively impacts higher education with Pentaho big data integration and analytics

September 24, 2014, — Marist College, a liberal arts college located in Poughkeepsie, New York, has created a portable, open source, predictive analytics model utilizing big data to address the degree completion crisis trending in higher education across America. By utilizing Pentaho's open-source Business Analytics Platform, Marist students, faculty and staff were able to engage in the research, development, and implementation of an early alert system, which is able to identify at-risk students.

The Open Academic Analytics Initiative (OAAI) was founded by Marist College with the support of a $250,000 grant from the EDUCAUSE's Next Generation Learning Challenges program, funded primarily by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. OAAI developed, deployed, and researched the open-source "academic early alert system" that predicts which students in specific courses are not likely to complete the course successfully within two weeks of the start of the course. Pentaho's open-source BI platform was in alignment with Marist's strategic plan to implement and influence new open-source strategies and promote community-source projects, such as OAAI. Further, Pentaho's BI platform is completely open-source and eliminates licensing fees which is a massive cost avoidance in comparison to the available commercial products.

At the heart of the OAAI system is a predictive model that "mines" three historical data sets: student aptitude data, learning management system event-log data, and electronic gradebook data. A rich set of plug-ins and filters to perform various data integration and data mining operations are some of the features in the Pentaho BI platform. These features allow an automated sourcing of data from multiple sources that feed the academic predictive model to achieve accurate scoring. Course-specific Academic Alert Reports are generated, and with this actionable information, faculty can intervene to assist at risk students by deploying one of several interventions, including awareness, tutoring or online educational resources.

By creating a predictive portable model, Marist was able to successfully deploy the academic early alert system to over 2,200 students at community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) around the United States as a means to research the effectiveness of the predictive analytics and intervention strategies. The accuracy of the predictive model when deployed at these partner institutions was in the 75% - 79% range.

"As a leader in educational applications of technology, Marist is committed to offering students, faculty, and staff the benefit of advanced open-source technologies. The capability to provide a timely intervention to assist a student that is at risk promotes a strong sense of community between student and teacher, illustrates our commitment to service using technology, and provides a provably excellent learning experience," said Bill Thirsk, Vice President and CIO at Marist College. "Not all open source projects are equal or have the same impact on our student's success. Partnering with Pentaho provided us the big data tools we needed to make a difference in student outcomes, one course and one student at a time."

Already, the OAAI has achieved all of its major project objectives, including the release of predictive models under an open-license and the significant research findings on the impact of different intervention strategies on student performance. Thus far, OAAI has been shared and implemented at four colleges and universities, all of varying sizes and demographics. As a contributor to this success, Pentaho's tools have accommodated these different demographics and institution types.

"Marist's 360 degree view of student performance is one of the most common big data use cases Pentaho addresses in the shifting sands of the big data ecosystem," explains Donna Prlich, Vice President, Product and Solutions Marketing at Pentaho. "By harnessing the power of Pentaho's big data integration and predictive analytics capabilities Marist College has successfully reduced college dropout risks before they happen."

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About Marist College
Marist College was founded in 1929 and is located in the heart of the historic Hudson Valley, midway between New York City and Albany, the state capital. The school has been recognized for excellence by U.S. News & World Report, Time, The Princeton Review. Additionally, Barron's Best Buys in College Education, has noted Marist College for its leadership in the use of technology to enhance the teaching and learning process. Marist reflects the ideals of the founder of the Marist Brothers, St. Marcellin Champagnat: commitment to excellence in education, a pursuit of higher human values, and dedication to the principle of service.

About Pentaho, a Hitachi Group company
Pentaho, a Hitachi Group company, is a leading data integration and business analytics company with an enterprise-class, open source-based platform for diverse big data deployments. Pentaho's unified data integration and analytics platform is comprehensive, completely embeddable and delivers governed data to power any analytics in any environment. Pentaho's mission is to help organizations across multiple industries harness the value from all their data, including big data and IoT, enabling them to find new revenue streams, operate more efficiently, deliver outstanding service and minimize risk. Pentaho has over 15,000 product deployments and 1,500 commercial customers today including ABN-AMRO Clearing, BT, EMC, NASDAQ and Sears Holdings Corporation. For more information visit www.pentaho.com.

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