Personalizing Analytics through the Education and Career Positioning System

min read

Key Takeaways

  • Lone Star College System offers an integrated Education and Career Positioning System that lets students, faculty, advisors, and parents simulate, navigate, validate, and plan a student's education-to-career options to select the best individual journey for that student.
  • The ECPS takes all personalized interests, values, skills, and academic records for students and distributes personalized student analytics directly to them for planning.
  • The ECPS is a suite of three key applications that integrate with the U.S. Department of Education's MyData Button [] and can be purchased by parents and students no matter where they live or attend school.

Institutional Context

Lone Star College System now offers their 78,000 students and parents the option to utilize a personal GPS for education and career planning called the Education and Career Positioning System [] (ECPS). The ECPS lets students and parents take fuller ownership of planning, accessing, comparing, and aligning all educational achievement with the correct education and career pathways. This is a new way of looking at the analytics that can drive, motivate, and move students through education into careers. For example, Lone Star College student parents Nancy and David Nation have two children attending college and a high school senior attending a charter high school called iSchool High on the campus of Lone Star College–University Park. Like most parents, the Nations knew they could purchase individual software and devices to help their sons navigate the Houston Metro area, but had no way to intervene and help their sons plan their education and career choices. The Nations were elated when they heard that Lone Star College offered the first national GPS equivalent application. As Nancy Nation said, "…with the newly innovated ECPS my husband and I have the opportunity to get involved in being a parental partner with Lone Star and our children to see what the past, present, and future career pathways look like."

Parent Nancy Nation talks about partnerships through ECPS (47 seconds).

About the ECPS

The ECPS is a powerful suite of three key applications that integrate with the U.S. Department of Education's MyData Button []. The program allows individuals to own, design, simulate, and create their education-to-career choices and pathways. The ECPS was also designed to be a consumer-based product — it can be purchased by parents and students no matter where they live or attend school. Parents like Hap and Leslie Aziz can now sit at the kitchen table and access, plan, and discuss education and career choices based on their daughter Emma's personalized data.

The Aziz family evaluates personalized data in the ECPS (55 seconds).

Students, parents, and advisors can use the self-navigation and simulation of the System Integrated and Guidance and Information (SIGI) application and Educational Data Vault (EDUVault) to securely design and visualize personal pathways. Access to this application allows students to personally own and access financial aid data, their complete portfolios, and advisement and guidance information throughout their lives. The career simulation and navigation features provide ongoing individual guidance to give students and parents ongoing access to their choices and pathways based on their personal profiles, college choices, and career choices. The output of the SIGI application can be accessed or stored as a Gem [] of personal information within the EDUVault. All other individual records are also stored in the EDUVault. A complete description and video walk-through of how these features and applications integrate to help students, parents, and educators is described by a college student who fully understands the immediate value of having personal analytics owned by the students, yet shared with parents and the college.

International student Alfredo can use the power of the "Personal" EDUVault to not only store and access his financial aid records, but also reuse the data he now "personally owns" and apply for scholarships and other grants by automatically reusing the same information. The time savings and financial aid opportunities are greatly enhanced with this new feature, especially for students from other countries who struggle with understanding the U.S. financial process. Lone Star College has international students attending from 107 different countries who will all ultimately benefit from these student success innovations.

Alfredo, an international student from Ethiopia, tells his story (1:45 minutes).

Status of ECPS

The concept of the ECPS was initially tested with over 8,000 students and 500 parents, followed by an innovative design with students and proven leading technologies that had already been used by more than 150,000 users. The ECPS was officially announced on February 20, 2013, with Richard Culatta of the U.S. Department of Education. The system was redesigned with students and mentors who submitted the concept as the Educational Positioning System (EPS) via the 2012 U.S. Department of Education Business Start-up Challenge. Lone Star College–University Park students Haley Barnett and Trey Carter worked with Chippewa Valley Technical College student Tiffany Mathews and Lone Star College System's Chief Strategist Michael Mathews to win the 2012 challenge. Out of 437 entries the EPS team of students and mentors took first place for all undergraduate colleges and universities. The winning video proposal and other recommendations from leaders across the U.S. can be viewed online.

After careful consideration with Lone Star College President Shah Ardalan, the team agreed to add the name "career" to EPS to make sure users knew that career navigation was a key function of the innovation. After verification of patent rules and trademark considerations, the EPS officially became the ECPS.

The ECPS is fully functional and available to all colleges, universities, and individuals. The ECPS applications have been used by approximately 10,000 students in various forms of career planning and academic records storage. Lone Star College plans a fuller roll-out during the summer of 2013.

To further implement and investigate the value to students, faculty, advisors, and parents, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation selected Lone Star College and the ECPS as one of 10 finalists for a $100,000 grant over 24 months to study the accelerated adoption of the ECPS as an IPAS (Integrated Planning and Advising Service). Lone Star College will work with experts from both the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the IMS Global Learning Consortium to study the wider adoption potential of the ECPS.

Most recently, the ECPS won the 2013 Innovation of the Year Award for Student Systems and Services by Campus Technology. The ECPS — Lone Star College's first invention — is under provisional patent (patent pending). Although gratified by the many national accolades for the transformative nature and implementation of the technology used with the ECPS, Lone Star College values the capability of transforming students' education and career choices by leveraging personal analytics.

Texas A&M University student Brenton Cooper does not attend Lone Star College, but stopped by Lone Star College to be interviewed on the need for a device like the ECPS that benefits all students.

Brenton Cooper discusses the value for all students of the ECPS (1:04 minutes).

Deb Derr, President of North Iowa Area Community College (a Lone Star College partner), comments on the ECPS (4:56 minutes).

Challenges the ECPS Resolves

The ECPS addresses a number of educational challenges, as follows.

  1. Most educational software has been licensed and sold to educational institutions vs. students, preventing true lifelong access. The ECPS is now a consumer-based educational application designed to be licensed to students and/or institutions. The widespread acceptance of the ECPS across the United States by students, parents, and organizations have helped narrow the perception gap of licensing software directly to student and parents. An April 2013 article [] by the Center for Digital Education has been extremely helpful in communicating this message.
  2. Students could not access their personal educational records (FERPA Compliance) from educational data systems. The U.S. Department of Education issued a statement of fact and the new MyData Button to allow all students and parents to access their records. This was announced at the White House on Oct. 9, 2013, with Secretary Arne Duncan, the ECPS project team, and other innovators.
  3. The ECPS provides a leading security method to store personalized data and ensure system access is truly available [] for life.

Student Sharon explains why access to personalized data is vital (52 seconds).

Impact, known or anticipated

At a national level, innovations like the ECPS have played a part in influencing U.S. executive decision makers to help liberate student data. On May 9, 2013, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing historic steps to make government-held data more accessible to the public, entrepreneurs, and others as fuel for innovation and economic growth. The Executive Order declares that information is a valuable resource and strategic asset for the nation. Under the terms of the Executive Order and a new Open Data Policy released by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget, all newly generated government data must be available in open, machine-readable formats, greatly enhancing their accessibility and usefulness while ensuring privacy and security. A video describing the significance of this executive order by U.S. CTO and Assistant to President Obama Todd Park can be viewed here (2:03 minutes).

More than 10,000 individuals tested and used the ECPS applications within the ECPS application suite. What sets the ECPS apart is that it is one of the only consumer-based educational applications that works with and for students and parents no matter what SIS, ERP, or LMS system is used. Students today desire change as well as the ability to design their own careers and pathways. Through the ECPS project, Lone Star College System has interviewed students, parents, and other college presidents who have spoken up through a video called "Let the Students and Data Speak."

"Let the Students and Data Speak" (17:02 minutes)

Other features with widespread impact include:

  • Developed, designed, and supported for 80,000,000 students vs. 4,000 colleges
  • Designed in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education MyData Button
  • Provides secure storage and access to lifelong personal information and educational records
  • Creates a lifelong personal interest, value, and experience profile
  • Analyzes personal profiles against jobs and careers
  • Selects and compares jobs and careers for best fit
  • Compares annual career salaries across multiple states
  • Determines job and career outlook

To step back and realize that creative use of innovative technology solutions potentially influenced the White House to declare an Executive Order, and ultimately change the course of how students will navigate their future education and career choices, is extremely humbling. I anticipate further development — and use — of the ECPS in the near future.

© 2013 Shah Ardalan and Michael L. Mathews. The text of this EDUCAUSE Review Online article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license.