Where business analytics meets student success

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Big data and real-time analytics are helping the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine (MCOM) track the coursework and efforts of medical students to better identify areas of struggle. The result is not only an enhanced education experience but also a direct impact on student success.

Tracking the curriculum as a whole and how students perform within it provides a large data set that can help identify which courses correlate to good and bad outcomes later, such as the link with struggles in a course to low scores on medical licensing exams.

As a result, the curriculum team is able to connect with students early to identify ways to support them and help them improve their work, and may even adjust the timing of certain courses to improve exam performance.

“We use data analytics in much the same way hospitals and researchers do, except we use it with students,” said Deborah DeWaay, MD, FACP, associate professor and associate dean of the Department of Medical Education for MCOM. “The main difference is we use standardized exam scores, course scores and other evaluations instead of weight and blood pressure.”

Dr. DeWaay said that the Department of Medical Education in MCOM works closely with the USF Information Technology experts to build and work with the analytics programs.

“Our informatics people and medical education people work very closely together to create the curriculum map and use business intelligence to analyze the curriculum, as well as student test scores,” Dr. DeWaay said.

Central to the effort is the use of an intelligent business process management system called Archivum (Appian). This large data set is useful to the Department of Medical Education and was originally built in an accreditation capacity.  However, the data the system produces has a much deeper and strategic purpose, said Swapna Chackravarhy, associate vice president of integrated data management for USF Information Technology.

“The wealth of the data that’s in there can be used for more test preparation and having the ability to pinpoint where certain test topics are being taught,” Chackravarhy said. “Our end goal in working with the DME is to provide them as much information as we can to help better serve the students.”

The effort can also identify potential risk for outcomes later on, such as a student’s performance on the USMLE Step 1 exam, part of medical licensing. If a student gets a certain score in certain courses, the data shows they are likely to score in a certain range in the Step 1 exam. Tracking the early performance can help instructors and advisors identify those who may potentially be at risk.

The next phase of using these data sets is to identify more targeted student strengths and areas that need improvement.  For example, Dr. DeWaay said, a student can pass every course with good scores, but levels of competency within the courses gives a much more in-depth look at what specific areas and competencies students should bolster.

The end goal is to deliver the most comprehensive medical school experience possible, Dr. DeWaay said. As MCOM moves downtown into its new building nearing completion in Water Street Tampa (classes begin Jan 13, 2020), “targeted efforts like this that support student success is how the Morsani College of Medicine will redefine how medical education is done,” Dr. DeWaay said.

“Producing the best medical school graduates who are ready to work in an ever-changing health care field is our primary mission here.”