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Contrasting Prediction Methods for Early Warning Systems at Undergraduate Level


Emma Howard, Maria Meehan, Andrew Parnell

Publication Type: 
Refereed Original Article
Recent studies have provided evidence in favour of adopting early warning systems as a means of identifying at-risk students. Our study examines eight prediction methods, and investigates the optimal time in a course to apply such a system. We present findings from a statistics university course which has weekly continuous assessment and a large proportion of resources on the Learning Management System Blackboard. We identify weeks 5–6 (half way through the semester) as an optimal time to implement an early warning system, as it allows time for the students to make changes to their study patterns while retaining reasonable prediction accuracy. Using detailed variables, clustering and our final prediction method of BART (Bayesian Additive Regressive Trees) we can predict students' final mark by week 6 based on mean absolute error to 6.5 percentage points. We provide our R code for implementation of the prediction methods used in a GitHub repository1.
Digital Object Identifer (DOI): 
Publication Status: 
Date Accepted for Publication: 
Tuesday, 6 February, 2018
Publication Date: 
The Internet and Higher Education Volume 37, April 2018, Pages 66-75
National University of Ireland, Dublin (UCD)
Open access repository: