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Monday, January 25, 2010


Liz Ditz

Signals Tell Students How They Are Doing

This fall Purdue University has launched a first-of-its-kind computerized system that will track student academic progress and warn students in real-time if they need work in certain areas.

More than 11,000 students enrolled in 500-plus introductory "gateway" course sections will know by as early as the second week of classes whether their effort is putting them on a path to success or not. All they need to do is glance at the traffic signal-like red, yellow and green lights they'll see when they log into the course Web site on their computer or, later this year, on their cell phone.

Those signals - for which the system is named - are followed by messages from their instructor giving suggestions on how they can change their academic behavior to improve their grades by taking steps such as attending help sessions or reading additional materials.

Tim Delworth, a continuing lecturer in mathematics, says Signals had a successful pilot in his classes.

Purdue University's Signals student success program lets beginning Boilermakers know how they are doing in certain classes, even on a cell phone. Students also receive e-mail or text messages from their instructors with tips on improving their grades in the classes. (Purdue News Service image/Alex Kingman)

"I give Signals an 'A,'" he says. "The student response has been very strong. Before, no one would e-mail me and say, 'I'm at 58 percent and I want to get to 72 percent, what do I need to do?' But the students who get a red light almost all contact me immediately to ask how to raise their grades.

"The information was there before, but it wasn't in front of them and it wasn't in a form that was as clear to them as a red or yellow warning signal."

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