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 6 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

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Retired academics calculating moves while playing bowls

Lincoln Allison, Eric Thomas and Richard Larschan reflect on the ‘next phase’ of the scholarly life