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Jan,

This is a great topic of interest to many, so thank you for generating the discussion. For years, I used Excel spreadsheets to document, track, and monitor ASU's Supplemental Instruction and general tutoring programs. Within the first year of my directorship, I formed a partnership with our IT department and they began sending me WebFOCUS reports. I set the parameters for the WebFOCUS report, asking for the GPA, SAT/ACT scores, ethnicity, course enrollment history (how many times a student had taken the course and final grade), major/minor, and final grade for a particular class. IT would send the entire class enrollment with all the above parameters. With this information, I could start to make some predictions about some of the students in a particular course. For example, how might a freshman with low ACT scores (which tests in science) fare in a traditionally difficult biology class where many students struggle, if this student did not seek academic support?

While the WebFOCUS reports provided a bird's eye view of the class and helped to develop student profiles, I still had to input the Excel data--the students' visits to SI and tutoring. Not only tedious but very, very time consuming. The larger our programs grew, the more data entry we had to do.  

This past year, our IT department designed software for all of the tutoring units on campus (general tutoring, writing ctr, math lab, SI, modern language tutoring, and acct lab). Each tutoring unit uses the software to input and track student visits. The software taps into our BANNER system, so I can do detailed assessments not only on my particular programs, but on all the academic support across campus.

sal
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From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Nina O'Connell [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, June 10, 2010 12:28 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Learning Assistance & Data Access

These are excellent points about access to data and the ability to analyze the data.  We had a Title V grant of which the Learning Centers and institutional research capabilities were a part.  We worked together to evaluate the Learning Centers and now have a strong partnership with the research office.  I don't think we could have developed such a strong partnership without the grant to formlize and legitimize the need for data.

We still have a ways to go in institutionalizing the use of data on success and retention related to tutoring.  But at least we have an efficient means of gathering and reporting the data even if few are listening.  So, beyond access, the next issue is developing a willing audience for the data.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jan Norton" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Thursday, June 10, 2010 8:03:47 AM
Subject: Learning Assistance & Data Access

I’ve been having a couple of off-list conversations about duplicate or ‘shadow’ databases, but I’d like to bring the discussion to the list in general terms to see what kinds of issues other people are having.  To clarify: I have all the data access I need, but not everyone does.  Some learning assistance programs are not being given the kind of data access they need.

First, a definition: a shadow database is basically a copy of information from the student record system.  I use TutorTrac, a program that allows me to upload files of student information and connect it to the usage tracking function.  But I’m not connected live to the student record system in any way that could allow a change in a TutorTrac record to result in any changes to the student record system, not can anyone get to the student information system through TutorTrac.  Plus the number of variables I upload are a relatively small part of what is in the student information databases.

Another issue about data access is related to accountability and learning assistance programs’ ability to evaluate their program effectiveness – both for the sake of the learning assistance program itself and for the institution as a whole.  If an institution is concerned about academic performance and retention for specific courses or student populations, then its learning assistance programs can contribute to the institutional knowledge about improving performance and retention.  But it takes data access to do that.

Improving data access also improves efficiency.  For example, if I can get to a class enrollment roster and I can get to individual student records and grades, then I could eventually construct a grade roster and, with even more time, could compare grades of clients and non-clients.  That takes far more time than simply granting access to grade rosters.  To save even more time and generate valuable information for the program and the institution, learning assistance programs that have tracking systems which upload course grades can, with just a few keystrokes, generate a report that identifies the impact of tutoring or other services, comparing the grades of tutored students or those attending SI to the grades of students who did not use services.

So what are the issues that some programs are having getting full access to the data they need for high-quality evaluations and relevant institutional information about accountability and effectiveness?   Is it a question of confidentiality?  There are forms and policies and procedures that can deal with that.   Does your institutional research office expect to be the sole source of such data?  Make them your allies.  Or conversely: for those of us who have all the access to data we could want, how did we get to that point?  If we can share how we created our alliances and got our permissions, perhaps we can help our colleagues do the same.


Jan Norton, Director
Center for Academic Resources
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
(920) 424-3419

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Nina O'Connell
RWLC Coordinator
San Joaquin Delta College
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Stockton, CA 95207
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