Prediction of students' performance through data mining : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand

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Government funding to higher education providers is based upon graduate completions rather than on student enrollments. Therefore, unfinished degrees or delayed degree completions are major concerns for higher education providers since these problems impact their long-term financial security and overall cost-effectiveness. Therefore, providers need to develop strategies for improving the quality of their education to ensure increased enrollment and retention rates. This study uses predictive modeling techniques for assisting providers with real-time identification of struggling students in order to improve their course retention rates. Predictive models utilizing student demographic and other behavioral data gathered from an institutional learning platform have been developed to predict whether a student should be classed as at-risk of failing a course or not. Identification of at-risk students will help instructors take proactive measures, such as offering students extra help and other timely supports. The outcomes of this study will, therefore, provide a safety net for students as well as education providers in improving student engagement and retention rates. The computational approaches adopted in this study include machine learning techniques in combination with educational process mining methods. Results show that multi-purpose predictive models that were designed to operate across a variety of different courses could not be generalized due to the complexity and diversity of the courses. Instead, a meta-learning approach for recommending the best classification algorithms for predicting students’ performance is demonstrated. The study reveals how process-unaware learning platforms that do not accurately reflect ongoing learner interactions can enable the discovery of student learning practices. It holds value in reconsidering predictive modeling techniques by supplementing the analysis with contextually-relevant process models that can be extracted from stand-alone activities of process-unaware learning platforms. This provides a prescriptive approach for conducting empirical research on predictive modeling with educational data sets. The study contributes to the fields of learning analytics and education process mining by providing a distinctive use of predictive modeling techniques that can be effectively applied to real-world data sets.
Prediction of scholastic success, Mathematical models, Education, Higher, Data processing, Data mining