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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University Gazette

New analytics dashboard lets faculty see class demographics

Any instructor of undergraduate students can use the My Course Analytics Dashboard to access their course data. Data are presented so that individual students cannot be identified; the tool provides summary statistics only.

“Majors, minors and years in school — that’s all I knew about my classroom demographics before,” said Marc Cohen, teaching assistant professor in English and comparative literature, when he first learned more about the demographics of students in his class. Several semesters later, Cohen changed the reading list in his course to have wider appeal to the students taking it.

Cohen learned about the demographic composition of his students through a new tool developed as a Thrive@Carolina initiative, My Course Analytics Dashboard, or MCAD for short. 

Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy, who helped develop MCAD, emphasize that the tool was developed by faculty for faculty. 

“Data can be a powerful tool to help us inform our practice as educators. It lets us hold a mirror up to our teaching,” said Sathy, teaching associate professor in the psychology and neuroscience department. She specializes in educational initiatives in the Office of Undergraduate Education that prioritize data visualization and understanding institutional data. Through MCAD, faculty can learn the demographic makeup of their students and how different student groups have performed in their past classes, she said. 

“I changed my own teaching after seeing data like these many years ago, so I wanted to help develop a tool that allowed all faculty to access data about students in their courses without having to submit data requests,” said Hogan, associate dean of instructional innovation in the College of Arts & Sciences and teaching professor in biology.

Any instructor of undergraduate students can use the tool to access their course data. Faculty can examine course grades in aggregate along with seven different categories of student characteristics: gender, residency status, race/ethnicity, transfer status, first generation status, Pell eligibility and SAT/ACT scores. Data are presented so that individual students cannot be identified; the tool provides summary statistics only. Faculty will see data only from their own courses.

“This is not an administrative or evaluative tool. It is a teaching tool,” said Emily Boehm, faculty development consultant with the Center for Faculty Excellence. 

All eligible instructors will be notified when the tool is available to them. Instructors interested in accessing their course data must complete a short online orientation that discusses how to use the data and avoid drawing inappropriate conclusions, such as reinforcing stereotypes about student performance. 

Kalina Staub, a teaching assistant professor in economics who serves as faculty adviser to the Carolina Women in Economics Club, said, “I am excited to have access to the tool to examine if gender differences in grades exist in my introductory economics course.”

MCAD was developed in partnership with the Office for Institutional Research and Assessment, the College of Arts & Sciences’ Office of Undergraduate Education, the Provost’s Office, Information Technology Services and the Center for Faculty Excellence. It was pilot-tested and refined for more than a year and is now ready for a campus-wide rollout. 

The Center for Faculty Excellence will be hosting workshops for instructors on using MCAD. Learn more at http://cfe.unc.edu/mcad.