What are the chances?

August 20, 2015

I haven’t read the article in the national press about an Open University algorithm that can forecast a student’s final grade “within just a week of their starting their course” (The week in higher education, 30 July), but we first used this kind of forecasting at the OU in 2006.

Using a statistical program, we were able to attach a “predicted probability of success” (PPS) to each new student entering the OU that proved to be surprisingly accurate. In one typical year, the PPS varied from 83 per cent for a few students to just 9 per cent for another.

We used the program only for research purposes, but I proposed that students should have access to their PPS. It seemed wrong that they should be committing a large sum of money while, in some cases, having characteristics that gave them apparently a very moderate chance of success. My idea was that students could complete a self-assessed questionnaire that would tell them their PPS, but – crucially – also tell them how they could improve it.

However, I suppose that the ethical minefield that would have had to be navigated to get to such a system kept the idea in the dock.

Ormond Simpson
Visiting fellow
University of London Centre for Distance Education

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Reflection of man in cracked mirror

To defend the values of reason from political attack we need to be more discriminating about the claims made in its name, says John Hendry

But the highest value UK spin-off companies mainly come from research-intensive universities, latest figures show