Student Achievement: A Whole New Ball Game
Major League Baseball's spring training has begun, and a new season is on the horizon. Given the significant rule changes, it truly is a new ball game that will fundamentally alter how managers manage and players play.
It's a whole new ball game for higher education, too, thanks to industry disruptions like the pandemic-induced shift to remote delivery and online learning, the proliferation of ChatGPT, and a renewed interest in micro-credentials. These changes require creativity and innovation at both strategic and tactical levels—taking new approaches, changing delivery methods, and embracing new data.
Twenty years ago, the Oakland Athletics revolutionized baseball with a holistic embrace of data-informed decision-making. At Anthology, this same penchant for data permeates every facet of the organization. The moral of the Moneyball story, however, was not just about data, but also a lesson in transformative, cultural change management. The same applies here at Anthology, as it does to your institution.
Having an innovative leader is a critical first step, but change is also enacted from the bottom up and scaled from the middle outward. Oakland's success hinged on complete conformity to—and embrace of—their data-informed ethos. Your student success efforts should reflect this as well. Many of you are already leading, enacting, or scaling innovative practices in student success, like Guided Pathways. Assuredly, you have been working fervently to align tactical approaches with your strategic vision. Some of you have also begun to leverage educational data to increase efficiencies and improve decision-making. Lean into that and ask yourself: In what ways is your technology supporting or impeding your efforts? The Pathways Model has been heralded as “an integrated, institution-wide approach to student success”1. Yet when institutions purchase technology from disparate vendors and apply it in isolation, it unintentionally reinforces institutional silos and inherently undermines your comprehensive approach to student development. Analogous to Moneyball – building your roster is not just about buying all-stars, but rather investing in the collective value of a team.
To be effective, the Pathway model requires an integrated academic approach. Similarly, an integrated technological ecosystem is required to support this “team mentality”. Here are a few opportunities where the connective tissue among solutions can enhance your essential practices of the Pathways Initiative to ensure success, even if you are on a “small-market” budget.
Pillar 1: Clarifying each pathway serves as the critical foundation in your Pathways Initiative. Mapping these pathways provides a clear and systematic guide towards students’ goals of degree attainment. The challenge, however, is these are still strategic landmarks. Essential Practices 1a and 1b help students begin with the end in mind, knowing what could await them if they stay the course. These datasets are incredibly complex and therefore time-consuming to aggregate and disseminate. Today’s labor market is rapidly changing, so these data need to be updated regularly. Why make decisions about tomorrow based on yesterday’s data? Anthology® Occupation Insight provides this timely data for program directors and students, to ensure decisions made today are based upon today’s data.
Pillar 2: Helping Student Choose and Enter a Pathway is a clear and important strategy to improve graduation rates. While strategically obvious, this does have its tactical complexities. Students attend school for a variety of reasons, with varying levels of clarity around what they want to pursue, what their skillsets are, and the extent to which their skills and aptitudes align with their current aspirations. Students’ aspirations and interests also change, sometimes at their discretion and other times at the institution’s. In all of these moments, you can provide each learner with a pragmatic lens for decision-making by clearly articulating the skills requirements and job prospects for new opportunities. While there are technological “all-stars” that can produce a similar proverbial batting average, those solutions are not team players.
At Anthology, we are focusing on driving personalization by mapping individual learner’s skills to labor market needs through our Intelligent Experiences (iX) efforts. Not only can students peruse current labor market data on job opportunities and salary ranges, or even see what skills are needed within our Occupation Insight solution, but by complementing that robust data set with the data from Anthology® Milestone—which surfaces and showcases individual learner’s skills—each student can contextualize the skills they have already acquired to relate to current labor market data for their program of study! This isn’t just a home run for choosing a path, it’s a walk-off grand slam.
Pillar 3: Major League Baseball eliminated the defensive shift, because managers were using data to put their fielders in the best position to make a play – and nothing was getting past them. Anthology® Beacon is our early-alert system that puts your advisors, faculty, and other support staff in the best position by closing the communication gap with notifications and notations. Keep students on the path by supporting them all with active and strategic advising, providing targeted academic and basic needs support, and providing programmatic options within meta-majors. Additionally, Beacon’s ability to integrate with other Anthology products encapsulates the “integrated, institution-wide” nature of the Pathways model; a proverbial “double play” for EdTech and student success!
First, Beacon’s integration with Anthology® Baseline surfaces early alerts and interventions based upon student-reported answers on surveys using the “Triggers” functionality. For example, when a student answers “Strongly Disagree” to the survey statement “I believe I can be successful in this major”, the advisor can reach out promptly to unpack the challenges and stumbling blocks in a student’s path. In an age where advisors’ caseloads are growing, triggers like this can help them effectively prioritize outreach – effectively keeping students on, or returning to, their path (essential practice 3c). Additionally, the “Involvement tab” integration between Beacon and Anthology® Engage provides a more holistic view of student engagement. No longer are advisors relegated to ministering only to students’ academic needs but can now take a holistic approach to supporting students based upon their involvement outside of the classroom. Low stakes experiences, like co-curricular events, can affirm or guide students towards the right path.
Pillar 4: Ensure students are learning. This is a critical component of education generally, and one that has garnered ample attention recently; understandably so. Focusing solely on academic and curricular learning, though, ignores the myriad opportunities and outcomes for students outside of the classroom. Essential Practice 4D encourages schools to ensure “students have ample opportunity to apply and deepen knowledge and skills” in a more experiential manner, like service learning. There is a tremendous opportunity to partner with your Student Affairs department(s) to offer tangible learning experiences in a way that complements in-classroom learning. Not only does Engage streamline workflows for campus organizations and events but also, through the integration with Baseline, provides mechanisms for rigorous assessment within your co-curricular programming!
The Pathways Model is a promising practice that is understandably gaining widespread adoption. Monumental disruptions in higher education could undermine those efforts, though, if you cannot adjust to the new “rules of the game”. A “team mentality” for your technology will help scale these essential practices by developing behaviors and habits which enable systemic change. The ways in which our products are already integrated, and our efforts to deepen those integrations, have us uniquely positioned to accompany you on your Guided Pathways initiatives. Build your roster with not just the best players in the market, but also the right ones!
1 What is the “Pathways Model”. (2017). American Association of Community Colleges. https://www.aacc.nche.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/PathwaysModelDescription1021.pdf
Andy works as a director of product management for Anthology's Student Achievement products, leveraging EdTech as a catalyst for student achievement across higher education.
Prior to this role, he served as an educational consultant for the Blackboard Analytics team. He also taught courses as part of Blackboard Academy and has contributed significantly to industry thought leadership in areas of student success analytics and advising.
Before Blackboard, he worked for over ten years in higher education, including as the head of academic advising and career engagement at Concordia University Wisconsin where he had previously worked as a transfer admissions counselor. Andy lives in a suburb of Milwaukee with his wife and five kids.