Whenever you surf the web, sophisticated algorithms are tracking where you go, comparing you with millions of other people. They’re trying to predict what you’ll do next: Apply for a credit card? Book a family vacation?

At least 40 percent of universities report that they’re trying some version of the same technology on their students, according to several recent surveys. It’s known as predictive analytics, and it can be used to either help or hurt students, says a new report from the New America Foundation.

The dangers come from the possibility of discrimination, invasions of privacy and groups of students being stigmatized, the authors, Manuela Ekowo and Iris Palmer, write. There can also be a lack of transparency when decision making is turned over to an opaque computer program.

But a happy story cited in the report comes from Georgia State University, a large public university in Atlanta with more than 24,000 undergrads. Of those students, 60 percent are nonwhite, and many are from working-class and first-generation families.

The challenge facing the university was: Can we apply predictive modeling to make better use of those advisors’ time and get more students across the finish line?

How One University Used Big Data To Boost Graduation Rates

Illustration: LA Johnson/NPR


Saw some super cool cosplays at AWA this weekend! I’ve seen a few of you on tumblr already so I’m tagging who I know, but I don’t know most of these people so tag yourself if you see you!

Pearl: @vulpismajor

Moana: @brianna-chan

Tracer: @digitaljellyfish Professor Porter: @mongrelmilo
On This Day: Henry Ossian Flipper is born

Photo: Photograph of Lt. Henry O. Flipper, circa 1877.

On this day in 1856, Henry Ossian Flipper was born. Flipper was born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia. During Reconstruction he attended Atlanta University. As a freshman, Representative James C. Freeman appointed him to attend West Point, joining four other black cadets. There they faced tremendous difficulty and discrimination from white students. Nonetheless, in 1877 he became the first African American graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He would later earn a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, assigned to one of the four all-black “buffalo soldier” regiments, and become the first black commanding officer of regular troops in the U.S. Army. 

Photo:  Cadet Henry O. Flipper in his West Point cadet uniform.


My Pearl cosplay from this year’s AWA! Some of my favorite photos from the con! Mostly selfies with some of my favorite cosplayers I got to meet! Tag yourself if you want to! You guys were amazing, and so was everyone else! Seriously the best con I’ve ever been too, it was great to go back to my first con.

(First photo by Christopher Wong @chriswithcamera, the rest are mine!)