Frequently Asked Questions
My Course Analytics Dashboard
What is My Course Analytics Dashboard?
My Course Analytics is a web-based tool that allows UNC-Chapel Hill instructors to learn more about the diversity of students enrolled in their courses and how different student populations have performed.
What are the goals of the My Course Analytics Dashboard?
The institutional goals of this resource are to 1) increase faculty awareness about student diversity, 2) provide instructors with information they can use to improve student learning, and 3) to encourage a systematic approach to improving teaching and learning.
What specific data will be included in the pilot for the Dashboard?
Instructors can look at student performance (grades) across the following demographic variables:
- Residency (in-state/out-of-state/international)
- Transfer (2-year community college and 4-year)
- First-generation attending college
- Pell grant eligibility
- SAT and ACT percentiles as compared to the entering cohort of the given students
- Age (25 or older)
How can instructors benefit by having access to this information?
We anticipate that faculty members will explore a variety of uses for this information. We know that some Carolina instructors are already using it 1) to inform adoption of inclusive teaching strategies such as scaffolding and positive growth reinforcement, 2) to facilitate matching at-risk students and campus support resources, 3) to leverage diverse student experiences in the classroom, and 4) to serve as baseline data for instructors interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning.
How is MCAD information impacting faculty decisions about the way they teach their courses? Some faculty members are diversifying their course readings to more closely match the demographics of their enrolled student population. Other faculty are using the data to develop strategies to support groups of students who are not performing as well in their courses. Some instructors use the tool to help monitor instructional trends in their courses. We look forward to seeing what other ways that UNC instructors utilize this information.
Which of my course sections will be available in MCAD? Only undergraduate courses with enrollments of 10 or more students taught during the Fall and Spring term are included. Courses meeting these requirements dating back to Fall 2010 are included.
Does this include information about students in courses I am currently teaching? No. Due in part to concerns about possible instructor bias, the University only makes data from previous courses available through this tool.
How often will course data be updated?
Course data is released about 30 days after the end of each fall and spring semester.
I am interested in accessing student data not available in the Dashboard; where do I go?
If you find that you would like to access additional data beyond that made available in the Dashboard, it is likely a sign that you’re getting into more in-depth research. We recommend at this point that you contact the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (email@example.com) to learn more.
I’m having technical issues accessing the Dashboard; where do I go for help?
- Keep in mind that if you are trying to access your MCAD data from an off-campus location, you will need to do so through the University’s virtual private network (VPN).
- If you complete the MCAD instructor orientation module in Sakai and still cannot access MCAD by the following day, please send an email help request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you have successfully logged into MCAD but your course information is not loading or you are receiving error messages, please send an email help request to email@example.com.
Do graduate instructors also have access to this information?
Yes, graduate students and post-docs listed as the primary instructor for a course section can access information for their courses.
How do my classes compare to the overall UNC demographic data?
Institution-level demographic statistics can be accessed within the Dashboard by selecting the Demograhics tab. This data may help give you a sense of how your course demographics compare to UNC as a whole. UNC comparison data is also available in tabular form: UNC Chapel Hill Undergraduate Student Demographics (Fall 2010-2016).
Data Security and Appropriate Use
What measures are in place to ensure that instructors can view only their own data?
All instructors will log into the MCAD with their individual ONYENS. In order to maintain the privacy of the data, instructors can not download or print data directly through the MCAD. We encourage you to avoid saving data in order to ensure privacy.
Do instructors have access to data for course sections taught by peers, much like the course performance data available through Connect Carolina?
Individual instructors only have access to data for their own course sections. Instructors team-teaching a course section both have access to data for that course.
Do departmental chairs and other University administrators have access to this data? Campus administrators do not have access to MCAD reports for other faculty members. Administrators can request data intended to be used for administrative purposes through the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.
Are there any restrictions as to how instructors can use this information?
These data may be used for instructional improvement purposes only.
Can interested instructors use these data for research and other efforts to share generalizable knowledge?
Faculty proposals to use the data for purposes other than instructional improvement must be vetted by the Office of Human Research Ethics and the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.
I feel overwhelmed by the MCAD information for my courses. Are there suggestions for how best to approach it?
We realize that this information may raise more questions than it provides answers. One place to begin is by identifying trends in student outcomes. If you have taught a course multiple times, you can compare groups and look across semesters to see what emerges from the data. Once you have identified some trends, you can begin thinking about how you might change or adapt your teaching to respond to any concerns you have. The Center for Faculty Excellence is available to help you consider these issues and appropriate pedagogical responses.
What are the limitations of interpreting this data?
The course data you are viewing are likely based on a small sample size and should be interpreted cautiously. In addition, you do not have data on outcomes for students in similar courses or other instructors in your department so you cannot compare your course outcomes to those of peers. You can, however, look for trends across your courses and consider areas you would like to explore further.
What conclusions, if any, can I draw from this information?
Remember that the data you are seeing is only for your class. It does not offer a strong comparison to peers teaching similar courses, others in your department, or trends in similar subject areas. The data should be used to identify areas of your own teaching that you may want to monitor or improve. The data is typically based on a small sample size, so larger inferences may be difficult to draw, but trends can be identified. You may also value student progress more than final grades. For example, a student who begins your course knowing very little about the content may make significant progress but still not make an A in your course.
What does it mean that a group of students always performs less well in my courses?
There are many factors that go into group-based differences in educational outcomes. Important things to consider are the differences in access to resources, educational opportunities, and social support. Students come to UNC from various backgrounds that likely influence their starting place in your class. However, some approaches to teaching can help ameliorate the existing differences between groups, or even exacerbate these differences. If you’re interested in learning more, visit the resources page to find additional information.
Where can I learn more about implicit bias and stereotype confirmation?
We have included some tools and articles on these topics on the MCAD website under Inclusive Teaching. Familiarizing yourself with some of the research will help you better understand the way they may impact your experiences and those of your students.
Who on campus can help me do more advanced statistical analysis?
The Odum Institute is a great resource for help with statistical analysis. If you are pursuing a more advanced approach, you are likely going to need to apply to the (IRB) Office of Human Research Ethics for approval.
There is a cohort of students in my course that is consistently under-performing, compared to other groups. What are my options for improving learning outcomes for this group?
Teasing out all of the factors that might be driving the trend you are observing can be challenging. A growing body of research makes the case for teaching practices that promote learning for all students. Often referred to as inclusive teaching practices, or universal design, instructors at Carolina and elsewhere have had success using these practices to narrow performance gaps between among different student groups.
Q. What are examples of inclusive teaching practices?
There are many examples of inclusive teaching practices. They include incorporating diversity into course curriculum, getting to know students and forming relationships, using varied pedagogical strategies that reach different students, offering students multiple ways to express themselves in class, developing structure for assignments and directions, and using assessments like mid-semester evaluations to gauge class climate. For more information on inclusive teaching practices, visit the MCAD website.
Is there support on campus for making changes to my courses if I decide I want to do so?
Absolutely! Staff at the Center for Faculty Excellence are available to talk about your course goals and options for addressing desired changes. CFE services include one-on-one consultations, inclusive teaching workshops, course design institutes, and course redesign grants. In addition, many of your peers are engaged in innovative and inclusive teaching practices. You can shadow them in their classrooms or reach out to faculty affiliated with the CFE for guidance. For example, consider visiting a class through the Faculty Peer Visits Program.
Assessing Course Changes
How can I determine whether or not changes I make to my course actually make a difference?
One of the best ways to evaluate improvements in the course is to collect data over several semesters. One option is to ask students for feedback on your current approach to a class activity or topic, evaluate their learning, and adjust the assignment or topic accordingly. When you institute the change, you can ask students for feedback again and compare the two experiences. Although change in the grades and distribution of grades for students in the course may not shift immediately, over time you are can evaluate whether the changes you’ve made are impacting these outcomes. The Center for Faculty Excellence can help you think through your assessment options.
Who on campus can help me come up with a more systematic way to assess my courses methods?
Pursuing a more systematic approach to evaluating instructional methods and other course changes is often referred to as the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). The Center for Faculty Excellence offers support for faculty members interested in pursuing SoTL projects.
What if I make changes to the course and I do not see any significant change in grades for this cohort?
It is likely that changes will appear over time as you refine and implement new approaches in your courses. If you do not see changes over multiple semesters, it may be that the approach you are using is impacting students but not their grades. Gathering student feedback in other ways is useful for helping to make sense of any change you’ve made and how it impacts student learning.