The University of Arizona uses data from student’s ID cards to anticipate which students are at risk of dropping out.
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One ongoing concern in university education is that too many students drop out before finishing their degrees. This can happen for many reasons, including personal or financial issues, or students feeling overwhelmed. Now one university is trying to help students. The University of Arizona is tracking freshman students’ ID card swipes to anticipate which students are more likely to drop out.
The ID cards are used by students at more than 700 locations on campus. This includes residence halls, the library, the student rec center, and in purchasing vending machine snacks and cafeteria meals. Researchers led by Sudha Ram, director of the UA’s Center for Business Intelligence and Analytics, used the data collected to explore patterns of movement, behavior and interactions. This information was then combined with other types of data to make predictions about who was most likely to drop out. For example, the researchers found that students who have shrinking social circles and a lack of routine are more likely to drop out. These students can then be flagged up to advisors and other staff, who may offer additional support to the students. Ram explained that it is important for students to establish regular routines and become socially integrated in order to avoid “getting lost” in their first year at university.
After using the system, the university’s retention rate rose to 86.5 percent for residents. Furthermore it rose to almost 89 percent for international students, which is well above the national average of 78 percent. However, most students are unaware that their every move is being monitored. There is no disclosure to students that their swipes and payment history can be monitored by the university, leading to potential privacy issues. Today, RFID chips and other types of sensors being used to monitor everything from the location of your wallet to misplaced library books. Do the benefits of this type of monitoring justify the invasion of privacy?