He added that because of the software's color-coded visualization, it is much easier to detect students who might need academic support, such as tutoring or help with their exam-taking skills.

The HSC has already noted tremendous progress in students' success rates. In January 2006, the exam failure rate for first-year students was an average of four; however, Alexander said this number has declined by 75 percent.


Real-Time Changes
Another benefit of the software is its ability to provide faculty and administrators with real-time information. This feature can help students shape the curriculum throughout the course of the semester.

"They can give daily feedback about the course, which is read by the course director, deans and faculty," said Alexander. "So if someone says, 'I couldn't read the PowerPoints very well yesterday; you had black type on a blue background,' that can be corrected the next day while the course is in session."

Dubin added that students can also leave anonymous course feedback anytime.

"It's actually blinded to the professors as to who wrote the comments," he said, "so that students can leave constructive criticism without feeling like they may be penalized for it.

"The comment section proves very valuable because the students trust us and they feel very confident that they can provide feedback in a safe environment," Dubin continued. "They will definitely tell us their likes and dislikes about day-to-day teaching methods, and what worked and what didn't, and that's proven to be very valuable as well."

He added that it's helped to track professors' performance as well. "There is a rating system called the satisfaction index that students turn in at the end of the course. So we have a quantitative tool to measure a course's success, and we'll track and trend that from year to year."

The HSC has made an impact in the higher-education arena, using the WebFOCUS software, and has piqued the interest of many other institutions. Alexander said the HSC has had numerous visitors, the farthest being California, inquiring about the technology and its implementation. The HSC also showcased the technology at various conferences.

Alexander believes, however, that technology isn't the only thing that contributes to students' success at the HSC. "I always like to say, it's not about technology, it's about a climate that's created in a whole sense in, 'I belong here, somebody is listening to me.'"

Karen Stewartson  |  Managing Editor