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Author's profile photo Rob Jonkers

Struggling students? Not with SAP’s Student Activity Hub!

Struggling students? Not with SAP’s Student Activity Hub!

“Data has the power to suggest that students are struggling”…a rather old but interesting study/read by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, entitled “Leisure College, USA” makes the claim that college students studied about 14 hours a week in 2003 in comparison to the 24 hours a week students studied in 1961…. (What would it be nowadays… :)).

This study has been performed by two professors where paper surveys were used to collect the learning data of the students… doesn’t that sound antique by now? Nowadays this kind of  ‘study’ and ‘learning’ data is digitally (somewhere…) available on each and every university campus or even be available on ‘wearables’ from students. The challenge with these structured and unstructured data coming from different sources*  is to capture this data, bring it to one unified data platform, combine it and be able to run meaningful (predictive) analytics upon these vast amounts of data

*coming for example from an SIS (student information systems) or Academic LMS (learning management system).

This above study has some sort of similarity to the nowadays numerous analytic projects at universities. Some around getting basic insights on student data, some around hot topics (or better said more advanced topics) like learning analytics, student engagement and student success.

Measuring student success and (learning) engagement within universities these days is becoming a genuine hard requirement more than it is a trend or future topic. Universities nowadays are almost forced by their students, their ‘consumers/customers’ to deliver on the high expectations they have. Universities need to deliver them not only a great campus experiences in terms of their student life but also delivering ‘study & learning’ services to keep them engaged, keep them on track and to ensure they reach their degree in time and budget (bit like SAP projects 🙂).

Some of those earlier mentioned ‘study & learning’ services and insights are more or less already made available with existing SIS and/or LMS solutions out there, for example getting insight in student progression runs, insights in individual or mass degree audits, total/sessional GPA information and the most simple available measurement or information ‘service’: a grade and its subgrades… However, similarly as the paper surveys used by the professor in the above study , all of this data is about looking back in time. It presents students, professors and academic advisors facts that are based on a range of activities (e.g. lectures, class interactions, e-learnings, exams, orals, social learning, performed study time. etc) happened over a period of time in ‘history’.

So what typically happens is that students potentially can start to underperform over time during the semester due to several (unknown) reasons. Specifically behind these unknown reasons you will find hard, real-time, ‘data-indicators’ to be mined by intelligent analytical solutions to find patterns that indicate that a student is underperforming or shows all of the signs to about to underperform. Such insights provides the university and the involved stakeholders a tailored and specified pool of students that really need academic advice to keep them on track by applying the right interventions in time.

Grades, GPA, degree audit results, progression outcomes etc can now be positively influenced before the actual measurements in form of e.g. exams takes place….E.g. instead of low GPA of 2.0 the ‘early identified underperforming & ‘intervened’ student now got a much higher GPA of 2,8 and progresses well into the next levels of his study.

So now we have student who is performing well in his curriculum, is therefore a happier student and even better; this student is not dropping out and continues to pay tuition fee and is on track to become a successfully graduate of your university!

So that all must sounds pretty interesting but how to accomplish getting theses insights and strong performing students? 

What if SAP would build a tool with a very strong & higher ed focused data foundation that could provide these insights? What if SAP would deliver a tool that could be the Spider-in-the-student-data-web at universities? What if SAP could deliver a solid foundation to run your (predictive/machine-learning enabled) analytics upon? What if SAP would build this on the latest in-memory (HANA) technology with visual attractive UX? What if SAP built such a next-generation student & learning data platform so that:

  • … Universities could easily connect (real-time) to existing SIS, LMS, and other campus sources
  • … Bring together all important student and learning data into one place
  • … Use existing SAP analytical solutions (or even non-SAP tools) to get insights in student performance
  • … Use this as a platform for universities but also for partners to innovate upon
  • … Get in real-time insights in those ‘struggling’ students and get them back on track?

Well we got good news for you! June last year we kicked of the development on a solution we call “SAP Student Activity Hub“. A solution designed and managed by the Solution/Product Management team and built by the Higher Ed development team in Bangalore, India.

The Student Activity Hub solution is currently being built on the latest and greatest SAP HANA Platform technology and equipped with analytical consumption UX based on Fiori look and feel. Delivery of the version 1.0 solution is planned end of July 2017 for the US as first launching country. Currently we are the in finalization of the development of version 1.0 where the entire scope is based on customer collaboration & requirements from key US universities.

So what is Student Activity Hub all about? SAP’s Student Activity Hub is a next-generation analytical platform specifically build with and for higher education. The SAP Student Activity Hub is a HANA platform based solution designed to unlock student activities from all data sources on campus, bringing all student data, activities, and interactions together in order to provide insights into student trends, success and performance. Together with this data platform which mainly consist out of a higher ed specific data model including a set of higher ed specific ‘curated content’ data views, in the next releases, we will deliver also set of UX tools to analyze, predict, and improve student success.

Student Activity Hub is developed to operate on the HANA Platform. It will be using HANA Smart Data Integration tools/API’s for integration to key campus data sources, it will have Design Thinking supported/based user interfaces and it will re-use existing HANA API’s to BI tools like SAP Lumira or 3rd party solutions (e.g. Tableau). The power of HANA in-memory technology will be fully utilized in the most optimal way with a standard out-of-the box pre-delivered data model (based on CEDS (Common Education Data Standard as well based on the learnings from our co-development customers. The data model of Student Activity Hub will be 100% ready for advanced analytical ‘calculations’ as well as predictive algorithms to solve the most important data insight issues and challenges on campus. Below a quick concept platform overview:

The Student Activity Hub is a state-of-the art HANA based solution designed to be easily deployed into any heterogeneous* university IT environment, whether you use Peoplesoft, Ellucian, Kuali, or Workday, we can connect with it.  Student Activity Hub is a very flexible and open solution, allowing universities to quickly implement, innovate and start to execute on student success and retention.

*(just to emphasize: Student Activity Hub is built to connect with any system out there so NOT specifically for SAP Student Lifecycle Management for example)

In a series of next blogs and video we will dive into some more details around Student Activity Hub and share on our exciting journey we kicked off diving head-first into one of the most strategic issues in higher education – student retention, student success, and learning analytics.

Please stay tuned!

Rob Jonkers

Solution Director Higher Education Cloud Solutions

SAP Solution Management

Learn more on SAP & Higher Ed

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