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3 Questions to Ask Before Implementing Predictive Analytics for Online Student Success


As enrollment in online programs continues to grow, administrators across higher ed are faced with the challenge of providing targeted support to help students succeed. Many opportunities to address this challenge exist within the vast amount of student data that is collected through enrollment and participation in online courses.

That is why the most forward-thinking leaders in online education are leveraging the data they have to build predictive analytic models and develop holistic student success strategies based on that data.

In this 10 minute podcast, Ellen Wagner, Chief Strategy Officer of the Predictive Analytics Reporting Framework, illustrates key points in the implementation of predictive analytic structures.

In review, Wagner recommends taking a close look at these three questions before implementing a predictive framework:

What will predictive modeling give you that your current strategies cannot address?

The progression of predictive analytics has opened new avenues for data driven student support that can make an impact beyond current best practices.  However, without a clear direction and purpose behind these analytical ventures, predictive modeling can also be a risky endeavor that requires significant amounts of time and resources.

By asking the question first of how analytics will be used, institutions can more effectively align the goals of the predictive analytic framework with the pressing challenges the institution has struggled to address.

What research questions will lead to the most actionable results?

Tailoring your research questions to guide the development of your predictive model is essential to seeing the impact of predictive analytics. Institutions must align their research and data collection with an actionable outcome that will make an impact for the student.

“Simply knowing who might be at risk really isn’t enough.  If you don’t know what to do to mitigate that risk or to respond to the needs of that student you are really only halfway there.”

Ellen Wagner, Predictive Analytics Reporting Framework

In designing the analytics framework, it is key to think beyond the tracking of student behavior and risk factors, and continue the research into the effectiveness of the solutions your institution is implementing.

What should institutions be doing to prepare for a shifting mindset?

For many in higher education, the idea of reporting through the use of analytics and data has always served the purpose of evaluation and assessment. Implementing a predictive framework that looks forward, not back can be a substantial shift in thinking.

Making sure to convey this shift to stakeholders across campus will help garner more buy-in and support, making the implementation and completion of the project a smoother process.


Join AI and our expert instructors in Phoenix this fall to learn in-depth strategies for identification, analysis, and implementation of predictive data strategies to promote online student success. This conference will provide a step-by-step strategy to:

  • Pinpoint the most important predictive data
  • Engage stakeholders essential to leveraging this data
  • Analyze data to answer the most important questions
  • Connect your analysis to student success and retention

Check pricing here.

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About the Authors

Caleb Tegtmeier, Conference Director

Caleb is an assistant conference director on our Academic Affairs team at Academic Impressions.  In his role at AI, Caleb is responsible for researching and producing programs in online learning, faculty development and emerging technologies for higher education.  Caleb holds a BSBA and an MBA from Emporia State University.  Prior to joining AI, Caleb worked for Xi’an Polytechnic University, as well as Emporia State University.

Ellen Wagner

Dr. Ellen Wagner serves as chief research and strategy officer and co-founder of the PAR (Predictive Analytics Reporting) Framework, a non-profit data services collaborative venture focused on institutional effectiveness and student success. She continues as partner and senior analyst with Sage Road Solutions, LLC.  Ellen was retained from Sage Road to serve as executive director of the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technology from 2009 through 2013.

She is the former senior director of worldwide eLearning for Adobe Systems, Inc. and was senior director of worldwide education solutions for Macromedia, Inc. Before joining the private sector, she was a tenured professor and chair of the educational technology program at the University of Northern Colorado, and held a number of administrative posts, including director of the Western Institute for Distance Education and coordinator of campus instructional and research technologies, academic affairs. Her PhD in learning psychology comes from the University of Colorado Boulder.