Forecast proves faculty right; class attendance leads to success 

For years Paul Wenthold has expressed to his students the importance of attending his class; doing so, he told them, would result in a better grade.

The Forecast web application shown displayed on an iPhone screen.

But Wenthold, an associate professor of physical organic chemistry, admits that the plea was anecdotal. He didn’t really have the data necessary to prove his attendance claim. Then he learned about Forecast.

Forecast is a Purdue-developed student success application that aggregates and analyzes University data to point students to behavioral changes within their control, such as class attendance and engagement on campus, both of which correlate strongly with academic success.

The app uses student data that Purdue routinely collects to run the University, like GPA, course registration, and wireless activity, such as where an internet connected device is logging into Purdue’s wireless network to gauge behaviors such as engagement, attendance and attention to course materials.

Robert Jacko, professor of environmental and civil engineering, says he believes the development of the Forecast app, which will continue to offer new features and insights in updated versions, can be a powerful tool for students who might be struggling and those who want to improve.

“There’s a lot of power in having access to that information,” Jacko says. “Allowing students to have access to it helps give them an insight they might not have otherwise.”

Through the app, a student (and only that student) may view data on their personal behaviors and see how it compares with other Purdue students as a group and how it can relate to their academic success. For instance, Forecast can show a student how much time they spend on campus, and how it compares to time spent by students with high GPAs – with the data indicating that students who spend more time on campus are more likely to succeed.

For faculty members like Wenthold, that insight is revealing.

“We always like to tell students things like it’s important that they come to class,” says Wenthold. “So just to get this confirmation that for my class it’s really true is helpful, and helps me back up that claim to my students.”

Just as personalized fitness trackers have changed the way many people live and exercise, Wenthold says he sees the Forecast app – dubbed by some as a “Fitbit for education” – as a tool that can transform not only how students study and learn, but one that can help faculty reshape their lessons to reach more students.

“One of the things I’m excited to see is how you can use this to improve the quality of your instruction,” Wenthold says.

Writer: Dave Stephens, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-496-7998, steph103@purdue.edu

Last updated: February 24, 2017

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