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Reimagining Student Success with Data Insights

min read

The University of Minnesota Rochester established an equitable and affordable hands-on, immersive, health care leadership program with help from Google Cloud's Student Success Services.

As the saying goes, "unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures," or rather, extraordinary challenges present opportunities to discover innovative, novel solutions. The challenges that higher education institutions encounter are not exceptions.

Take the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR), for example. The institution was faced with a critical challenge: too few people statewide are becoming qualified healthcare professionals. Without a solution, the consequences could be dire.

Within the next five years, the State of Minnesota is projected to face a shortage of more than 90,000 health workers due to an unreliable college-to-clinic pipeline and unplanned interruptions to education.Footnote1 Disparities in educational attainment have also contributed significantly to this challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic deprived students of the in-person learning experiences required to deepen their knowledge of their field and led other students to step away from academics to focus on challenges at home or to safeguard their own health.

UMR wanted to create a hands-on, immersive, health care leadership program that was more equitable, affordable, and applicable to the real-world situations students face once they graduate. University leaders and the Mayo Clinic envisioned a shortened, year-round, work-linked bachelor's degree in health science. The goal of the program is to get well-educated students into the field quickly upon graduation.

With the leadership and support of University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel, yet without a model to follow, Chancellor Lori Carrell at UMR knew the institution needed to implement a nontraditional, innovative approach to begin its digital journey and make the institution's vision a reality. UMR faculty are experienced innovators. The Rochester campus of the University of Minnesota was founded in 2009 to design new models for student success. Carrell explains: "A reimagined university requires a relentless devotion to the learner, a radical commitment to data-driven educational practice, and partners who share value but bring distinctive expertise."

Not a "Cookie Cutter" Approach

The university approached Google with its challenge and requested the company's expertise around which Cloud solutions could meet its complex needs. Chancellor Carrell and her colleagues worked closely with the Google team to craft a customized vision for success that combined Google's extensive lineup of cloud services with UMR's innovative human-centered design approach. With the goal of improving student outcomes and equipping colleges and universities with the data insights they require to evolve into more flexible, student-responsive institutions, Google Cloud's Student Success Services offer a wide spectrum of services that UMR could tap into, including solutions in areas such as digital transformation of operations, learner insights, and the classroom of the future.

UMR is acting on a growing body of evidence that shows academic monitoring and improved student connections can aid student retention.Footnote2 Institutions can use data insights to pinpoint areas to improve student outcomes. According to EDUCAUSE, an organization that advocates for IT solutions at colleges and universities, institutions must focus on student success.Footnote3

"We're engaging in more conversations about student success than ever before," says Steven Butschi, director of education for Google Cloud. "If you look at college strategic plans today, you're more likely to see an emphasis on student success. Institutions are looking for inexpensive and sustainable ways to use data toward that goal."

Even as higher education leaders have come to see the value in technology, they often hesitate due to high costs. Google Cloud's Student Success Services addresses their concerns by offering a wide range of customizable solutions; institutions can choose however many of them they can use.

Customized Services for Any Vision

Much of the data that provides a foundation for student success programs remains untapped or languishes in old systems that lack powerful analytical capabilities and the ability to provide meaningful insights to meet the transformational change institutions need. Google Cloud's Student Success Services, by contrast, represent a chance for a technological metamorphosis through a suite of tools and services that provide insights to unlock students' potential and keep them on the path toward success.

Institutions like UMR have the freedom to include the services they want while developing their own platforms. Institutions can leverage a range of top-notch services without the high cost associated with unwanted software components. Instead, solutions are customizable to meet the needs of the institution, ensuring that it gets the most value out of them.

"This is a very competitive space. One of the advantages we offer is flexibility. Students require access outside the hours of nine-to-five. By delivering those services, an institution can take a major step toward developing equality in learning for people who fall outside the usual channels," Butschi says.

The services offered by Google Cloud fall into three categories: digital transformation of operations (to build flexibility and cost-effectiveness at scale); classroom of the future (to reinvent collaboration and personalized learning at scale); and learner insights (to better understand and serve all types of learners).

UMR leadership chose custom solutions in all three areas that are offered as part of Student Success Services. With Google Cloud services, students at the university are "nudged" toward behaviors for academic success. For example, students get reminders about unfinished assignments and receive badges when they exhibit mastery of pedagogical competencies. Administrators, on the other hand, are given access to custom dashboards that provide a real-time assessment of how each student is performing in comparison to their classmates. At the end of the program, Google Cloud's ability to link students with prospective employers through their classroom of the future solutions will help them get jobs.

The now three-way medical-education partnership has resulted in NEXT GEN MED, an accelerated program that launched in the 2022–2023 academic year. The goal of this program is to fundamentally change health sciences education with an integrated, career-connected curriculum supported by a flood of data-driven insights that students can use to improve their performance inside the classroom and as vital health care workers in their local communities.

The Future of Education and Beyond

As the need for new student success services continues to grow, Google Cloud is designed to expand to meet future needs. It puts artificial intelligence (AI) to work uncovering valuable insights from institutional data, and then helps academic decision makers find ways to design new, personalized solutions around those insights.

"Student success represents a long continuum—everything from helping students find the right institution, to helping them sign up for the right courses, to linking them with the connections and communities that will help them thrive," Butschi explains. "Even beyond that, making decisions on student services involves seeing how they go about learning or how to pair them with internships or jobs. Then, for lifelong learners, service means letting them know about relevant and newly available credentials they can take advantage of."

With Google Cloud's wide range of Student Success Services, institutions can leverage solutions to draw meaningful data insights that better serve their students and positively impact their local communities with graduates who are prepared to take on challenges—all while maintaining their institution-specific experience.

To learn more about how your institution can get started leveraging data insights and AI, connect with the Google Cloud team today.

Notes

  1. Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota's Health Care Workforce: Pandemic-Provoked Workforce Exits, Burnout, and Shortages, research report, March 28, 2022. Jump back to footnote 1 in the text.
  2. Colleen Carmean, David Kil, and Linda Baer, "Why Data Matters for Student Success in a Post-Pandemic World," EDUCAUSE Review, August 10, 2021. Jump back to footnote 2 in the text.
  3. Susan Grajek and the 2021–2022 EDUCAUSE IT Issues Panel, "Top 10 IT Issues, 2022: The Higher Education We Deserve," EDUCAUSE Review, November 1, 2021. Jump back to footnote 3 in the text.

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