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UNM using data tool to track student progress

UNM Provost Chaouki Adballah shows Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron the tracking software Friday

UNM Provost Chaouki Adballah shows Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron the tracking software Friday. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico on Friday unveiled a set of online student data tracking tools that could help students graduate on time and with less hassle statewide.

State Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron toured UNM to see the data-tracking software firsthand in a public showing of the data tools Friday afternoon.

“As we’re in this environment of very tight budgets, that’s all the more reason why we need data to inform our decisions,” Damron said. “So that we’re making the right choices for our students, we’re using our taxpayer money, our state money as efficiently as possible.”

The Institute for Design and Innovation is the UNM agency tasked with developing the tracking tools and presenting the data in an interesting, informative manner for university administrators.

Greg Heileman, an associate provost, leads the program, which is staffed with undergraduates, graduate students and tech professionals who watched from the sidelines as journalists and Damron’s staff invaded their computer lab.

The software tools vary. One looks at the university’s population as a whole, but can narrow in on more specific categories such as the number of underclassmen or number of professors on the branch campuses.

Another tool shows where alumni of New Mexico higher education institutions work in the state.

And yet another can show administrators grade breakdowns, i.e. how many students earned Cs in a Statistics class. The tools also can show where students get stuck and make policy decisions accordingly, said Provost Chaouki Abdallah.

And they can show students what they need to do graduate in a timely manner. The goal is to provide similar services to the 30-plus colleges in New Mexico.

The state invested $75,000 in the program this year, Heileman said. The university can also sell the software, and has sold tools to universities such as Colorado State and Kansas State.

The student data already exists, Abdallah said. The trick is consolidating it and presenting it in a way that makes sense.

“For the time being, our intent is to make sure this gets used in the state, to make sure the students can progress through the system and to give the decision-makers the data and information,” he said. “We’re being able to provide the decision-makers on the right level to be able to make quick and effective decisions.”