Unicon Announces Completion of Automation Tools for Marist College’s Learning Analytics Strategic Initiative

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Open Source Tools for Marist College’s Academic Early Alert System Now Available

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Unicon, Inc., a leading IT consulting, services, and support provider specializing in open source for the education technology market, today announced that it has teamed up with Marist College to develop two open source tools to automate Marist’s academic early alert system. These new tools allow Marist to build on their pioneering work under their Open Academic Analytics Initiative (OAAI). The initiative was supported by the EDUCAUSE NGLC program with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with the goal to create one of the first open source academic early alert systems.

The tools aid in automation of the OAAI system, which focuses on the “analysis” portion of the learning analytics process. One tool is the Sakai data extraction tool, which securely pulls student grades and activity information (such as when a student logs in to Sakai or completes an assessment within Sakai) for use by the Learning Analytics Processor (LAP) tool (the second tool developed). The LAP applies the academic risk predictive model developed by Marist under the OAAI to determine a “risk rating” for each student based on the data extracted by the Sakai data extraction tool. If a student is deemed “at-risk”, interventions then take place to help the student succeed. Both of these tools can be used with any predictive model and are not OAAI exclusive.

“We are very excited to be collaborating with Unicon in this effort,” said William Thirsk, Vice President of Information Technology and CIO, Marist College. “As it is allowing us to automate critical components of the early alert system we developed under the OAAI making it easier for others to adopt and implement.”

OAAI developed, deployed, and researched an open source “academic early alert system” which is able to predict, within the first two weeks of the semester, which students in a specific course are not likely to complete the course successfully. Once identified, students receive interventions, such as tutoring or recommendations for Open Educational Resources (OER), designed to help them succeed. The OAAI predictive model ranged in accuracy from 75 to 85 percent without customizing or tuning the model for a specific student population. Current work indicates that accuracy rates would be above 85 percent once the model had been customized.

“As the lead institution in the OAAI we were able to develop a significant amount of expertise and knowledge in the use of analytics within academia,” said Josh Baron, Senior Academic Technology Officer at Marist College and Apereo Foundation Board of Directors member. “Which we are now leveraging as we collaborate with others through the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative to realize our longer-term vision around creating an enterprise-level open source platform for learning analytics.”

OAAI consists of entirely open source technologies and predictive models, which allows for easy customization and eliminates licensing fees. OAAI has been piloted with over 2,200 students, many of who were considered low income. The pilot occurred at two community colleges and two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), with a 75-85 percent prediction accuracy rate. Research, which included use of control groups, has shown that use of the OAAI system had a statistically significant impact on final course grades and content mastery (receiving a C or higher). Details of these and other finds can be found in the inaugural edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of Learning Analytics (http://learning-analytics.info).

To download the two open source tools, visit the Apereo Foundation’s Learning Analytics Initiative (LAI) Github:

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. Learn more at http://www.marist.edu.

About Apereo and LAI
The Apereo Foundation was formed by the merger of Jasig and the Sakai Foundation in late December 2012. Sakai and Jasig had pioneered the production and adoption of open source software for higher education for over ten years. Apereo will take that work further, providing a more rational and improved organizational umbrella for a range of projects and software communities serving higher education. The aims of the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative (LAI) are to accelerate the operationalization of Learning Analytics software and frameworks, support the validation of analytics pilots across institutions, and work together so as to avoid duplication. Work is underway across the learning analytics domain to realize an open analytics infrastructure. If you are interested in working towards a community-sourced analytics infrastructure, incubating software, sharing requirements, cross validating analytics pilots, while working in a wider community of interest, please contact Alan Berg, Community Officer for the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative at analytics-coordinator@apereo.org. Learn more about Apereo at http://www.apereo.org.

About Unicon
Unicon, Inc. is a leading provider of IT consulting, services, and support for education technology and works with institutions and organizations to find solutions to meet business challenges. Unicon specializes in using open source technologies to deliver flexible and cost-effective systems in the areas of learning analytics, identity and access management, student success, mobile computing, learning management systems, portals, online video, calendaring, email, and collaboration. Unicon is a Commercial Affiliate of the Apereo Foundation; an InCommon Affiliate and Participant; an Industry Member of Internet2; an Affiliate Member of IMS Global Learning Consortium; an Advanced Consulting Partner in the Amazon Web Services Partner Network; an Organization Member of the Drupal Association; a Solution Partner of Kaltura; a Services Partner of Liferay; and a reseller of Zimbra. For more information, visit: http://www.unicon.net.

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