February 1, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 28°F


College faculty and staff test new Student Success Dashboard

Ithaca College is currently testing a new system, the Student Success Dashboard, to provide a technological tool for faculty and staff to use in identifying students who need academic assistance.

Benjamin Costello ’97, executive director of Constituent Engagement Strategy, announced the new technology at the college’s Board of Trustees meetings in May 2022. Costello was responsible for designing the Student Success Dashboard and has been working on it for the past two years. He said there is not an exact date set for the full launch of the Dashboard, but it will be in time for midterms and the advising period before Fall 2023 registration.

The Dashboard is a project of the Retention and Engagement Strategy Team (REST), which is now part of the Center for Student Success and Retention. REST, established in August 2020, predates the Center for Student Success and Retention, which was established in Spring 2022 within the Division of Marketing and Enrollment Strategy to address falling retention rates at the college. 

Costello said research on the Dashboard began with focus groups consisting of faculty advisers to understand what would make their jobs easier. He said the Dashboard pulls from multiple systems that staff and faculty have access to, like the Center for Student Success and Retention and the Office of Case Management, which is responsible for iCare.

“Through all of that input, I just said, ‘I think we can come up with something that will help to solve a lot of these problems,’ and this idea of creating the Success Dashboard really checked them all off,” Costello said. “In some ways, it’s just a convenience. The presentation is nice. It’s all on one view. There [are] visualizations to help show trends … which aren’t available in other places.”

Jacqueline Winslow, executive director of the Center for Student Success and Retention and one of the lead members of REST, said the goal of REST is to use surveys and instruments, like the Dashboard, to listen to student perspectives.

“We’re in this research phase right now, making sure that [REST members] are spending time … [on] what we know students have said would really work,” Winslow said.

Elizabeth Bleicher, dean of the Center for Student Success and Retention and another lead member of REST, said beta testing is a way for REST to understand the impact of the Dashboard. There are currently 80 people testing the system, including a limited number of faculty and staff from offices like the Office of Access, Opportunity & Achievement and Student Accessibility Services. 

Bleicher said the groups of people who will have access to information on the Dashboard include students’ academic advisers, professors, Center for Counseling and Psychological Services counselors, dean and associate deans and select staff. She said all of these groups will see different information on the Dashboard depending on their role in helping the student. For example, advisers will be able to see academic concerns and scholarship requirements, but no financial information otherwise. She said information that will not be in the system includes private medical records and Title IX information.

“The only things that are in here are the things that are going to help us help the student be successful here,” Bleicher said. 

Ian Moore, director of Student Accessibility Services and a beta tester for the Dashboard, said the convenience of the system has been one of the biggest benefits.

“One of the best things is its speed in comparison to some of our old data systems,” Moore said. “I go to one spot … and [I] get to the information really quick.”

Moore said one of the current challenges with the system is deciding which semester the system should default to and at what point the semester should transition. He said some people viewing a student’s profile will want to view the past semester, but others will already be looking toward next semester. 

Moore said changes can be made even after the Dashboard goes live, but adjustments would be made during strategic times when there will be less interaction with the system, like during the summer and winter.

“I imagine in the future, how it’s gonna have to be done is [REST] won’t make those ad hoc changes,” Moore said. “[REST will] collect information, tabulate [and] plan.”

Bleicher said students will be able to see what others can see on their Dashboard. She said that a week before the Dashboard goes completely live, students will be able to preview their profiles. Costello said students will be able to pick which student clubs and organizations are displayed on their profiles.

“When this goes live, the student will be able to see their own Dashboard and be able to suppress or hide any orgs or all the orgs that they don’t want to be included,” Costello said. “That’s not a huge amount of control, but it’s some control.”

Bleicher said that when beta testing is complete, faculty and staff with access to the completed version of the Dashboard will sign confidentiality agreements and go through orientation to understand how to use the system. However, Costello said beta testers did not have to sign a formal confidentiality agreement. 

Winslow said REST is being very cautious with the Dashboard and members are making students’ privacy a priority.

“[The Dashboard] is still in a beta test place because we want to ensure that we’re ensuring data privacy for our students and that our students are aware of what can be seen by whom,” Winslow said.