February 14, 2017

Purdue Profiles: Jason Fish

Jason Fish Jason Fish, director of teaching and learning technologies in ITaP. (Purdue University photo/Rebecca Wilcox) Download image

Jason Fish, director of teaching and learning technologies in ITaP, calls himself a "Purdue lifer."

Fish received both his undergraduate and master's degrees at Purdue. He's now been a full-time staff member for 11 years and is working toward his PhD. In his job, Fish leads the team working to roll out new approaches and applications geared to help students be successful.

"I love working in technology," Fish said. "It's always changing, it's always something new, and doing it in education means something to me."

What led to ITaP's decision to create new applications and software, and what do you hope to accomplish for students?

The goal is always student success and to get students to graduate in four years. It's an ever-changing student population with ever-changing needs. We're working with students and faculty to determine what those new needs are, and sometimes the needs don't have market technologies out there that exist, so we have to create them ourselves. That's what leads us to develop new things.

What is ITaP's Forecast application?

Forecast is a big data application to identify behaviors that correlate with student success. There's all this data that Purdue uses to run the institution on a day-to-day basis: students' grades, use of Blackboard, when and where they connect to the wireless network. Purdue has all this data and we decided to show students how certain behaviors are related to success.

For example, when signing up for classes, you have a ticket date for a certain day and time. What we found from looking at the data was that students who sign up that day end up having a better semester than students who wait an extra day, an extra week, or an extra month, because they get into classes they want and they get the time that they want. Students never had this information before to show them that if they go and sign up on the day that their ticket opens, they're likely to be more successful. Forecast also looks at how much you're on campus outside of class, which we've found is correlatedto a higher GPA. We've also started to look at class-specific information, like attendance and use of the wireless network. A lot of students are using the network for educational purposes, which is the average use of the network. Then there are students that use it much, much more than the average. What we found was that in certain classes, the more students use the internet for purposes other than the class, the worse they do.

How does Forecast make suggestions for the student to improve performance, and what types of things might it suggest?

Forecast suggests the behaviors that are correlated with past successful students. For example, we have a module that lets students see how difficult their next semester will be as compared with other people in their major and all other students. We give students suggestions like to meet with an advisor, look into certain types of study opportunities, or find resources. This way they can see that their next semester is going to be tough, so maybe they shouldn't take on a certain extracurricular activity next semester. Or they might see that the challenge level of their semester means they can take on additional extracurricular activities.

How will Replay help improve students' test scores?

Replay is a brand-new app that is in the testing phase. It's a gamification of a quiz and allows instructors to build quizzes so students can take the quizzes in a gamified fashion, where they can compete against classmates to try to get the highest score. As opposed to just getting a practice test or practice quiz and taking it on their own, they can go through it a couple times to try to improve their score and can see how they are comparing with others. What we've seen is that the gamification aspect, the ability to compare yourself against your classmates really helps incentivize students to do it more than once or do it until they get all the questions correct.

How can you use innovative educational technologies to improve Purdue student success and studying?

In my opinion, it's all about giving the students the information to allow them to make the best decisions. At Purdue, we have a highly intelligent set of students, and I believe if you give them the information to allow them to be successful, they can be successful. Our goal is to enable the success of students and instructors through technology. 

Writer: Kelsey Schnieders, kschnied@purdue.edu 

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