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Education Hardware

University of Arizona Tracks Student ID Card Swipes To Detect Who Might Drop Out (theverge.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The University of Arizona is tracking freshman students' ID card swipes to anticipate which students are more likely to drop out. University researchers hope to use the data to lower dropout rates. (Dropping out refers to those who have left higher-education entirely and those who transfer to other colleges.) The card data tells researchers how frequently a student has entered a residence hall, library, and the student recreation center, which includes a salon, convenience store, mail room, and movie theater. The cards are also used for buying vending machine snacks and more, putting the total number of locations near 700. There's a sensor embedded in the CatCard student IDs, which are given to every student attending the university. Researchers have gathered freshman data over a three-year time frame so far, and they found that their predictions for who is more likely to drop out are 73 percent accurate. They also have plans to give academic advisers an online dashboard to look at student data in real time. "By getting their digital traces, you can explore their patterns of movement, behavior and interactions, and that tells you a great deal about them," Sudha Ram, a professor of management information systems who directs the initiative, said in a press release.
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University of Arizona Tracks Student ID Card Swipes To Detect Who Might Drop Out

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  • by xevioso ( 598654 ) on Monday March 12, 2018 @04:56PM (#56248821)

    The article is void on information on what specific statistics indicate a student is more likely to drop out. Are students who use their ID card to go to the rec center more likely to drop out over students who us it to enter the library? The article doesn't say.

    • by Scarred Intellect ( 1648867 ) on Monday March 12, 2018 @05:02PM (#56248847) Homepage Journal

      That's probably exactly what they're trying to figure out. Only 3 years of data doesn't seem like much to get anything definitive, especially since those first students haven't even graduated yet. I image with a few more years of data they can refine it more and get something more definitive.

      • by xevioso ( 598654 )

        It says, "Researchers have gathered freshman data over a three-year time frame so far, and they found that their predictions for who is more likely to drop out are 73 percent accurate"

        So they are basing their predictions on certain behavior of the students. What specifically is that behavior?

        • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Monday March 12, 2018 @05:22PM (#56248959)

          they found that their predictions for who is more likely to drop out are 73 percent accurate"

          73% accurate is nothing to write home about. Especiakkt since they didn't give us a dropout rate.

          i.e. 10% dropout rate at73% accuracy will show 24+% of your students going to dropout when they have no such intentions. As well as another 7.3% who actually are going to dropout. While missing 2.7% who are going to dropout, but who have no such intentions.

          An accuracy rate of 73% is only useful (and not very useful even then) if the dropout rate is about 50-50 or better.

          And what's the deal with spying on your paying customers anyway? Jaysus, tracking every building on campus you enter? Yah, no doubt that'll be very useful for any rape investigations on campus, but really!

          • Physical security. When I go to work, I badge in when I enter and badge in when I leave. Some lab spaces with sensitive equipment are access-controlled and you badge in to enter those too.

            Do you have to type in your password to get at your netflix or amazon? Same idea...except in real life.
          • The University I worked at used them for the purposes of restricting access to certain areas, depending on what you were studying or who you worked for. For example, Comp-Sci students got access to some of the more specialized computer labs. IT guys had access to server rooms etc. (can you guess what I was? :) It was also, apparently, possible to tell who was in the building during a fire, but I don't know how easily that information could be obtained during an actual blaze...
        • by mikael ( 484 )

          In my undergraduate course, we started out with around 30 students. It was known at the time at that department, that in any course, around 2 students drop out each year. This happened each year for 4+ years. They wouldn't turn up for tutorial/lab sessions, miss lectures, spend more time at the student union drinking/gaming at the pool tables or the library when they should have been doing courseworks.

          Our university for legal reasons, kept a role call for every lecture and tutorial session. Other universiti

    • not going to class would be a big one

      • student athletes miss a lot of it. Hell if they make to the final 4 then that a lot + time missed to get it.

    • Something tells me that this person, employed by the university, considers that a future trade secret when they try to commercialize nationwide.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Think of what could be looked back and recovered about a person looking for a job.
      Did they study a lot to get their good grades?
      Library time? Lab time?
      Speed too much time on the political and art student side of campus?
      Off campus doing other things?
      Still managed to get "given" good grades but the movements show a student who never really attended much "university"?
  • I'd drop out of any school that followed me around like this. And once upon a time I was in grad school at UA.

  • by VorpalRodent ( 964940 ) on Monday March 12, 2018 @05:10PM (#56248891)

    Okay, I was going to dump on this, because the TheVerge article sucks. The press release, however, actually does a good job discussing some of the signals they track and how this ties into them. They even have a nice visualization of student traffic which hints at some ways that they might be able to infer stuff from all of it.

    As an aside, the article contains this horrible quote (I really hope there's some missing context):

    We think ...[we're] sort of doing what Amazon does — delivering items you didn't order but will be ordering in the future

    I'm sorry, but I do not recall Amazon ever doing that. Quite frankly, I'd consider it really awkward to receive things in the mail based on what they thought I might need.

    • Re:No information (Score:5, Informative)

      by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Monday March 12, 2018 @05:17PM (#56248933) Homepage

      I'm sorry, but I do not recall Amazon ever doing that.

      Consider their regional warehouses like a giant edge cache. They pre-buffer likely products into that cache. [techcrunch.com]

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This is probably the real case of what amazon does. I'm sure by now they have pretty good stats on the things that customers may search for and add to their carts for later purchase, or just search for but don't add to a cart. They probably even have stats down to the individual of how likely you are to purchase something that you have saved for later or just searched for. They can optimize their delivery network on this data and move items closer to the purchasers before a purchase is ever made.

    • No major company is going to send unrequested items because under USA law that would be a gift so you can keep it. There have been some cases of smaller companies with high price low manufacturing cost, such as software, that have tried it and then bully the people into paying.
      They are mixing up the fake story the New York Times created about Target doing that with baby advertisements.
  • why do I have to go an big lecture class even more so for the filler ones or ones where you just need cram for the test. I want to take classes I want to learn and not stuff I will never use.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      why do I have to go an big lecture class even more so for the filler ones or ones where you just need cram for the test. I want to take classes I want to learn and not stuff I will never use.

      Because it's a university. If you just want to learn what you want to learn, take a trade school.

      University students are expected to take courses (ok, forced) in non-subject areas, usually called "complimentary studies" or other terminology. This helps produce more well-rounded students who have a breadth of knowledge r

      • This helps produce more well-rounded students who have a breadth of knowledge rather than a rather narrow specialized field.

        That's certainly the concept, but AIUI European universities don't do anything like this, and their graduates don't seem to have a worse general fund of knowledge than equally-educated Americans. I sure as hell didn't get all that much out of my "distributional" requirements. The really interesting stuff that was outside my major didn't count toward them - I think I was one class away from a minor in classics when I graduated.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      So a boss and company, gov, mil knows a person wanting a job later can study and showed they can be punctual and can manage time.
      • How, by having my card at certain places at certain times? If anything, it proves that I can get people to do stuff for me.

  • Use Bayesian (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness Of Course ( 4617959 ) on Monday March 12, 2018 @05:16PM (#56248927)
    Bayesian solutions should be capable of >80%.
    The alledged wisdom of the crowds should get close to Bayes.

    73% is a miss. They should take a class.
  • I'm surprised that the researchers didn't start to run into university politics before they published their result -- namely, that the University is using data to segregate students and preferentially help some students and not others.

    Many a data science / predictive algorithm study has been sunk because university administrators think it singles out people, even if it is to help them.
  • Systems like this are everywhere now.

    For example, here in the Netherlands a similar system is used in Dordrecht. It's extremely untransparant, where the makers say they want to avoid the hassle of a public debate..
    Source: https://www.groene.nl/artikel/... [groene.nl]

    China is another obvious example. They use data to pinpoint students with potential psychological issues.
    Source: https://www.volkskrant.nl/buit... [volkskrant.nl]

    Big data is feeding our impulse to be risk averse. The question is what this does to students in th
    • It will do to students what such systems always do: It makes them find out how to game the system. Once it's out that you should spend time in the library, people will hand their cards to their dorm partners who need to research something in the library to soak up some "I'm studying hard" points while sleeping off last night's party.

      Give the whole shit 2 years and they'll find out that students are one demographic that's really resistant to profiling.

  • I get that students are responsible adults but when they are paying tens of thousands for their education, surely their tutors should be the ones noticing this, not a data mining operation?

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