UMBC IT leaders honored for supporting student success through innovative data analytics

Three UMBC information technology (IT) leaders have received the Blackboard Catalyst Award for Leading Change in recognition of their work implementing technologies on campus in innovative ways. Vice President of IT Jack Suess ‘81, mathematics, M.S. ‘95, operations analysis; Associate Vice President of IT John Fritz Ph.D.‘16, language, literacy, and culture; and Director of Business Intelligence Kevin Joseph ‘87, computer science and information systems, formally received the award at a special event on July 26, 2017.

Each year, Blackboard, Inc., presents a range of awards to leaders at academic institutions across the country. The Catalyst Award for Leading Change is presented to educational institutions that have implemented educational technology strategies campuswide in novel ways to support the needs of their faculty, students, and staff.

This award illustrates what can happen when customers and vendors partner on a common goal like student success,” explains Fritz.

Using Blackboard tools and technology, UMBC has created one of the most robust data warehouse in higher education. Joseph led the development of the UMBC data warehouse, called REX, which combines systems from across the university. He explains that REX was built using the Blackboard Analytics platform, noting that it “integrates academic, faculty, and administrative data from systems throughout UMBC and allows authorized faculty, staff, and institutional researchers to report and analyze University data to help turn data into insight.”

“The award shows how the collaborative spirit of UMBC is helping to improve the success of our students,” says Joseph.

Fritz notes that Blackboard also helped the team expand their work in important ways. “We piloted an approach to learning analytics that Blackboard refined and scaled in ways we never could. In turn, this freed us up to dive deeper and share our lessons learned about student engagement, faculty course design and the use of of a learning management system (LMS) as a diagnostic and early warning tool, not just a way to deliver content like the syllabus,” he explains.

In a recent article in EduCause Review, Fritz describes how UMBC analyzed data on an existing learning management system to help the instructor utilize a Blackboard tool more effectively in his course, and then applied their findings in a broader way to help more faculty and students across the university.

Fritz worked with a tool called “adaptive release,” which allows an instructor to set conditions students must meet to access course content” to ensure each student is prepared for increasingly challenging material. He identified which faculty used this particular tool, analyzed quantitative data to determine who was using the tool most effectively, and then examined in greater detail the top cases to determine why adaptive release was particularly effective in certain courses. He explained that UMBC now uses this approach to identify other tools that are particularly effective in supporting student learning.

Read “Moving the Heart and Head: Implications for Learning Analytics Research” in EduCause Review.

Banner image: Jack Suess, John Fritz, and Kevin Joseph. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.