UJ first university outside USA to implement student support software

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) is the first university outside of the USA to implement Blackboard Predict, a predictive solution that analyses student data and activities in blended and online learning environments to provide educators with timely information to assist students to complete their courses.

According to Prof Thea de Wet, the University’s Director of the Centre for Academic Technologies (CAT), the on-boarding of this technology is part of the University’s mandate as an African-focussed university, based in Johannesburg and committed to contributing to the fabric of society.

“We have a responsibility as a higher education institution to do everything within our means to ensure student success,” says Prof De Wet. “Academic failure is just one of the reasons why students do not succeed at university: insufficient financial support, psychosocial challenges, poor career choice and under-preparedness are some of the contributing factors.”

Blackboard Predict makes use of an institution’s existing data form their existing student information and learning management systems to create a predictive model that provides early identification of students that need additional support and then helps to drive focussed interventions by lecturers, tutors and professional academic counsellors to support students proactively.

UJ plans to roll out the platform in their blended learning programmes from the second semester two in 2017.

“Our academic structure is very different to the USA, so Blackboard is tailor-making the dashboard for the SA environment and our specific needs,” she adds.

According to the Education Framework, only 35% of the total student intake and 48% of contact students, graduate within five years.

“The roll out of Blackboard Predict will be supported by a tailor-made intervention programme at UJ. The Institution operates on a best practice and best evidence model, so we will be looking at institutions around the world, to gain their insight about adding to our already extensive tutoring system and health and psychosocial services.”

Prof De Wet points out that the financial investment in the platform per head is far less than allowing students to fail.

“If students drop out we not only lose revenue from fees but also from government subsidy; input subsidy received when students start university and output subsidy upon graduation. In addition, there is a heavy socioeconomic burden on individuals, families and communities when students do not complete their studies.”

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