Monday, December 7, 2009

Rio Salado Honored for Digital Technology

Rio Salado College was recently named one of the Top Ten Digital Community Colleges in the nation by Converge magazine and e.Republic’s Center for Digital Education.

Rio Salado finished 10th in the category for large colleges (7,500+ students). As Maricopa Community College District’s online college, Rio Salado serves more than 60,000 students annually.

The survey recognized community colleges that offer exceptional technology support to students and education. It covered multiple areas in digital technology, including online registration, distance learning, tutoring and advisory services, technology training and social and collaborative capabilities.

Through Rio Salado, students have 24/7 access to several online services such as financial aid, tutoring, library, bookstore, help desk support, and RioLounge, the online student union.

“In addition, Rio Salado’s custom learning management system, RioLearn, offers students access to over 550 dynamic online courses most of which students can start every Monday,” said Edward Kelty, Vice President of Information Technology.

In the last year, Rio Salado has also increased its presence in the social networking world by creating Facebook and Twitter pages, where students and the general public can follow college news and connect with other fans.

“Our survey results show that community colleges are fast embracing cyber technologies and fostering collaboration in learning by using tools in which students are familiar,” said Marina Leight, Vice President of e.Republic’s Center for Digital Education. “The institutions chosen as this year’s top community colleges are exceptional examples of the investment in learning.”

Predicting Student Success
In other technology news, Rio Salado has developed a program that helps predict which students will succeed and which ones will not.

The “predictive modeling system,” one of only a handful in the nation, takes into account dozens of variables when calculating student success. They include: online behavior, grades, enrollment history, current enrollment status, financial aid status, advisement and demographics.

According to Adam Lange, a programmer analyst at Rio Salado College, the predictive modeling system has many benefits.

“One of the major benefits to predicting student success is that faculty and staff can assist at-risk students before it’s too late,” Lange said. “Our main goal is to find effective ways to help students succeed.”

Lange said the system can predict, with 70 percent accuracy, the probability of success, meaning how likely it is that a student will earn a “C” grade or higher in a given course.

Rio Salado is currently piloting the system, running it on the 8th day of class to estimate a student’s probability of success. If a student is identified to be at-risk, faculty and instructors intervene to provide assistance and guidance.

Lange said future plans include running the system prior to class start dates, giving front-line staff and advisors time to reach out to students, and building an automated alert system to notify students directly if they fall into an at-risk level.