Integrating Artificial and Human Intelligence for Student Success

August 30, 2022 Watermark Insights

There are numerous reasons why a college student may fail a class or drop out of school all together: inability to comprehend the material or keep up with the coursework, lack of time management skills, problems at home, or health issues, just to name a few. Many students also face financial obstacles to completing on time, regardless of their academic achievement, as we outlined in Predictive Analytics and College Completion: Overcoming Academic and Financial Obstacles.

The myriad of obstacles that prevent student success can make it overwhelming for faculty and advisors to know who might be struggling and when to intervene. As faculty and advisors find themselves with more students - more likely to be low-income and facing more obstacles than previous generations - they may not have enough time to identify and address these issues.

Luckily, with the advent of new data analytics and predictive modeling techniques, colleges and universities have a new tool to help them support student success — artificial intelligence. Before you conjure up images of robots and massive computers, imagine a real-life scenario of how a higher education institution utilized AI with Watermark Student Success & Engagement software (formerly Aviso Enterprise) to ensure student success:

“The predictive analytics and risk factors allow me to be more proactive in my outreach to students. They guide my interventions and connections to resources and strategies,” said Pamela Wiggins, Success Coach at Randolph Community College.

“One particular student that comes to mind is one who, through Watermark Student Success & Engagement software, I saw a pattern of online course withdrawals and a direct correlation between attendance and his academic performance. We developed an academic plan that, initially, included only seated classes and then gradually included online courses once his confidence and skillset in online proficiency was acquired. In addition, during semester registrations, we worked on choosing course sections that were offered at times that were conducive to his attendance – which for him was avoiding early mornings.”

At Watermark (formerly Aviso Retention), we see this example as a sign of how both AI and Human Intelligence (the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the faculty and advisors who serve students) can come together to provide a more efficient and effective student success program at your institution.

“We know through our experience supporting technology-enabled success coaching, when you combine strong, consistent student relationships with the right information, delivered at the right time, staff can intervene proactively and quickly to solve issues before they become attrition risk problems,” said Heather Taynor, Vice President of Client Success at Watermark.

College faculty and advisors have years of training and experience that make them the front-line of addressing student needs. With regular interactions with students, they often are the first to know when a student is struggling - sometimes before the student even notices! Higher education professionals build relationships and trust with students and can adjust their approach to learning when they find out that a student’s parent is ill, or that the student is struggling with anxiety. This information informs conversations faculty and advisors have with students, and how to take action.

However, we don’t always know from talking with a student whether they will have an issue that will impact their academics. Often students fall through the cracks, especially first-year or transfer students, or those who do not ask for help. Oftentimes an otherwise successful student experiences a hardship that impacts their attendance in class, with a snowball effect that is quick and otherwise unnoticeable in the absence of centralized attendance tracking.

This is where the insights gathered from Watermark Student Success & Engagement software can come in. The academic information gathered through Watermark Student Success & Engagement software over a student’s academic career paints a picture of how a student will progress in a particular class and across their academic tenure. For instance, Watermark can utilize information on attempted credits, GPA, prior college experience, absences in course meetings, and previous class completions and/or withdrawals to predict whether a student is at risk of not completing a particular class, but also whether they are at risk of dropping out altogether. In fact, Watermark is able to predict as much as 88% certainty whether a student will fail a class without support or intervention from faculty and advisors.

Thus, the additional layer of data received through the predictive risk indicators can help advisors balance this granular data with the personal information they already know about the students to develop an individualized success plan.

Prioritize and Inform

How can we combine human intelligence with the predictive modeling and early-alert system of Watermark Student Success & Engagement? To do so is to combine the power of human intelligence with learner analytics to improve our ability to predict which students will be in trouble and outreach to them before the problem becomes too difficult to handle.

While artificial intelligence cannot replicate or replace human intelligence, it can supplement those who interact with students in helping them determine who is at risk of dropping out or failing a class. In other words, this technology can allow you to prioritize which students to support - and at the appropriate time - through the information gathered on why they may be at risk.



After a student has been identified as a high or medium risk for failing a class or dropping out, faculty and advisors still need to do the work of reaching out to those students and designing a game plan to help them persist. However, Watermark Student Success & Engagement software helps advisors be more efficient with their time, identifying students who need support that may not ask for it, while still responding to the everyday issues that arise when educating this vulnerable population. Faculty and advisor time is valuable - Watermark Student Success & Engagement can help you be more efficient and effective in your advising and mentoring, reaching MORE students at risk of failing.


As a higher education professional, you use data every day - in your research, each time you interact with a student, and when your institution engages in day-to-day business. Now, the power of AI has opened higher education’s ability to really reach students. This information can be overwhelming, but luckily Watermark Student Success & Engagement makes it easy to determine which students are at risk for failing a class or dropping out, and Watermark makes it easy to reach out to these students most in need. We at Watermark, with our personalized and dedicated customer service team, can help you craft an early-alert system that works best for your institution’s needs, increasing student retention and completion. We can also work with the stakeholders at your institution to train and support them in their use of this powerful system.

We still need people to do the work of reaching out to students, determining interventions and referrals. But now, there is a powerful tool at your fingertips that takes the guesswork out of knowing who to support and when. Watermark Student Success & Engagement software helps faculty and advisors do what they do best, but with more precise information. The goal is to have better conversations, referrals, and interventions. When combined with the notes and alerts in Watermark, and what staff already know about the student, Watermark Student Success & Engagement can take some of the guesswork out of knowing when and why to intervene, going as far as telling you how to intervene.

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