By Kristen McIntyre. Student success depends on having timely support programs in place to address learning and achievement gaps. UCI has developed a program, called COMPASS, to help instructors and advisors pinpoint student need and provide that essential support. It does this by making it easy to access student data—enrollment, degree completion progress, current grade status, and other demographic data—for analysis.
COMPASS, short for Comprehensive Analytics for Student Success, was created in 2016 by the Office of Information Technology, in partnership with the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, with additional input from the Office of Institutional Research.
The idea behind COMPASS was to help academic advisors, faculty, and administrators analyze student data and so gather greater insights, track student progress, and predict future enrollment and resource needs. Through data analysis, instructors and advisors can help students identify and overcome hurdles to their academic progress. This real-time access to data creates a quicker feedback loop in support of early student intervention, when necessary.
Reporting and analysis for COMPASS is delivered by IBM’s Cognos business intelligence product. This product allows users to search for ready-made reports, create ad-hoc reports using highly configurable input such as filters, create visualizations like spreadsheets and graphs, and assemble reports and visuals into dashboards.
As soon as the resource was created, it became invaluable to multiple campus departments. Academic and advising leaders began to understand how powerful the information was, and many have since hired their own analysts to focus entirely on interpreting the data within their particular discipline.
Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Michael Dennin, who is also dean of the Division of Undergraduate Education, described COMPASS as more akin to a research project than a traditional institutional undertaking. He said its success so far is due in large part to the participants’ willingness to allow the discoveries they find along the way determine development of the project going forward.
“Typical research projects include more exploratory aspects, giving flexibility and space for investigation in order to find the right elements to study,” Dennin said. “[The COMPASS project] has been very organic in that way.”
This spirit of discovery and teamwork also expands beyond data collection. Insights derived from the data are being shared readily among teams, creating a collective based on collaboration and a mutual desire for betterment and knowledge.
Now that COMPASS is well-established at UCI, the focus is looking at how to grow and expand its footprint. Plans for more large-scale analysis encompassing broad groupings of students are at the forefront — while helping departments dig deeper into their own specific analytics will remain a continued focus.
The needs and interests of advisors, professors, and administrators who want to make use of the tool continue to grow and evolve. “As understanding and access to student data expands, new ideas for reports and projects continue to emerge,” said Briandy Walden, associate director of Student and Academic Services, who oversees OIT’s responsibilities for the project, “Keeping up with these valuable requests as we serve the wider campus is our next opportunity. An increase in data-driven decisions, interventions, and outreach is the culture change we had hoped for.”
One silver lining to come out of the pandemic is that faculty have banded together with administrative departments to ensure students are continuing to thrive during this time of uncertainty. As this initiative grows, OIT’s support in providing the right data and analytical tools will ensure each student is given the best chance of success in their time at UCI.
Kristen McIntyre is communications specialist, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Information, Technology & Data, UC Irvine.