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Key Metrics for Identifying (and Helping) At-Risk Students

Student behavior tends to settle into a pattern after the first few weeks of classes. Around week three or four of the semester would be a good time to pull a report to identify students engaging in behavior that could impair their chance of success in the course.  When deciding to pull a report think about your class structure: do you have assignments due once a week or multiple times per week, are there weekly quizzes? Do you use readings or touchpoints that students are expected to complete and how often?   Knowing how often a student should be accessing course material and for how long will help you identify what metric to use when creating your report.

You can choose to use one or multiple metrics to help identify at-risk students. Start with one metric and then use a second to drill down into behavior.

Common metrics to use include:

  • Last login

This can help identify students who have not accessed course material in the past week, however, it can hide students who access the course but log out without fully completing work. Look for students who have not logged in for more than three or four days.

  • Logins per week

Useful in a course with multiple weekly deadlines to identify students who are not keeping up with assignments.   Look for students who log-in only on days when assignments are due as well as student's last login times of students who have missed assignments.

  • Total time in the course

It can be helpful for assessing if students are spending enough time outside of class on course material. This can miss students who do work in binges rather than spreading out their time.  Look for students who are below the class average.

  • Time spent on topic or assignment

This is good for identifying students who work at the last minute or rush through assignments.  Look for students who have poor grades or who are struggling with topics to identify how much time they actually spend working on course material or assignments.

  • Progress reports

Progress reports give a good overview of where a student falls in total course progress. They can be useful when individual reports are compared to the class to identify students who are falling behind. 

These are just a few to get you started, based on your course type and structure you might find others that are more useful.

When looking to identify at risk students we want to try and identify poor practices as soon as possible.  After identifying an at-risk student, it can help to meet with the student to discuss their study and time management practices. This also provides an opportunity for the students to get to know you, making it easier to ask for help or to let you know if there are reasons outside of school for their struggles.  It is also important to follow-up with the student in the following weeks to help them stay on track.

About the Author

Suzanne Galayda has taught mathematics for over fifteen years with a focus on developmental and first year mathematics courses.   Her areas of interest are ED-Tech, technology in the classroom, and AR/VR in education.  She has been using McGraw-Hill’s CONNECT and ALEKS platforms in hybrid mathematics classrooms for the past several years.  Most recently, she worked on ASU’s OLC award winning redesign of College Algebra using ALEKS.   She also contributes to the McGraw-Hill Math-Tips Newsletter.

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