BKRev # 1805. New Directions in Higher Education: Learning Analytics in Higher Education. Zilvanskis, John & Borden, Victor. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 113p, $25.00. ISBN: 978-1-19-44382-7. http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1119443822.html

Ashley Gragido, M.Ed.

California State University- San Marcos

Office of Undergraduate Studies

[email protected]

Advising is an art and a science. Advisors by nature are focused on relationships with students and techniques to inform and motivate them toward success. Editors John Zilvinskis and Victor Borden present the case that data science is missing in higher education and is critical to student success work. Advisors and faculty are integral players in developing successful interventions that promote student academic success. As advisors, it can be difficult to think about what data could possibly tell us outside of what we already know. The text, Learning Analytics in Higher Education, addresses the pressure to use data in our decisions, what it means, and how it can help frame our work.

The authors in the text validated the importance of an advisor’s role in developing successful interventions. “Student advising and support providers often have the most extensive experience in dealing with students directly as students [they] formulate academic and life goals” (Drake, 2011). Advisors are usually one of the only groups on campus who are aware of all the complexities that affect students' experiences and are key in the creation and implementation of interventions. The authors of each chapter are transparent in presenting both positive outcomes and challenges when navigating the learning analytic environment. Throughout the book several interventions are discussed such as, predictive analytics and early alert systems. However, there are very few of examples of clear answers on how to create interventions and more importantly what the assessment of the interventions look like.

The examples presented can inspire thoughtful conversations and foster a generation of ideas that can work on our campuses, but it is clear there is a lot to learn regarding how to use the data successfully. “Stakeholders often make the mistake of thinking the data will tell them what to do, as opposed to realizing that data does not drive decision making; it is the interpretation of the data that creates change” (Zilvinskis & Borden, 2017). The question that remains is how do we create the right interventions, and more importantly assess if those interventions work? As the editors assert, the answer is still a work in progress.

In the end, this book provides a framework to reflect upon data and the importance of using it as we frame student success initiatives. Although there are several areas that provide evidence of the successful use of data for student interventions, we know that predicting how a student will fail is not the answer. Advisors understand the subjective nature of the student experience, but it is important that we understand the quantitative as well. “It is impossible to investigate student experience without recognizing the world has changed. As higher education changes, so too have institutional responses to engaging students” (Zilvinskis & Borden, 2017). We owe it to ourselves and our profession to embrace data and lead the charge on how to use it effectively and thoughtfully on our campuses. Reading this book drives the conversation on how to move forward using data in intervention development and how we as advisors and faculty can foster the most significant impact on student success.


Zilvinskis, J., & Borden, V. M. (2017). Learning analytics in higher education. New Directions for Higher Education. (No. 179). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Drake, J.K. (2011). The role of academic advising in student retention and persistence. About Campus, 16(3), 8-12.

Posted in: 2017 Book Reviews
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