Blackboard, VitalSource®, and UMBC Finds Digital Learning Tools Can Better Predict Student Success


New study suggests engagement with digital learning tools can help predict outcomes and inform interventions for at-risk students

BOSTON (July 12, 2018) - A study released today by Blackboard, VitalSource®, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) finds that engagement with digital learning tools can better predict student success than incoming GPA.

The study found that students at UMBC who are highly engaged with digital learning tools were 200% more likely to pass their courses than less active students. Specifically, incoming C students with low engagement had a 37% likelihood of passing a class while similar students exhibiting the highest level of engagement with Blackboard Learn and/or VitalSource had a more than 90% likelihood of passing a class.

“To my knowledge, this project represents one of the few empirical studies to look at student success through combined, digital tool usage data," says John Fritz, UMBC's Associate Vice President for Instructional Technology. "In addition, the IMS Caliper Analytics® standard made it technically possible for a university and two ed tech companies to pursue shared interests, which is rare in its own right. We learned a lot and appreciated the collaboration very much."

The research on selected fall 2017 courses, conducted in spring 2018, was based on UMBC student engagement data across a diverse range of courses, including a variety of course subjects and class sizes, and assessed students’ usage of Blackboard Learn, a virtual learning environment and learning management system developed by Blackboard Inc., and Bookshelf® by VitalSource, the world’s leading digital content platform

“We are excited to work with Blackboard and UMBC to demonstrate the important role of student engagement analytics and the IMS Caliper Analytics standard,” says Dr. Michael Hale, Vice President of Education at VitalSource. “We believe that putting actionable data in educators’ hands will have a meaningful impact on student outcomes and retention.”

The study highlights the pivotal role of digital learning tools and related engagement analytics in helping institutions better understand and improve student outcomes. This study, which focused on student engagement through week four of courses, allows for just-in-time student intervention to address at-risk students.

In particular, this study demonstrates the valuable role of learning data interoperability, supported in this study by IMS Caliper Analytics, a standard format for analytics created to allow a variety of learning tools to return data that can be analyzed in aggregate. By combining activity data from multiple digital learning tools, it becomes possible to create earlier and more accurate predictions of student achievement. In the hands of professional advisors, this could mean more timely interventions and more students remaining on track for on-time graduation.

”We recently strengthened our relationship with VitalSource to streamline the ability to provide Inclusive Access of digital materials on day one of a class,” said Phill Miller, Blackboard’s Chief Learning and Innovation Officer. “This study, conducted with one of our clients, illustrates the value of the relationship with VitalSource and how Inclusive Access can drive student success.”

About VitalSource |

VitalSource Technologies LLC, part of Ingram Content Group, is improving the learning experience by making it easier to create and deliver effective and affordable content. The preferred choice among educational institutions and companies for digital learning materials, VitalSource® helps over 1,000 educational content providers create and deliver seamless interactive learning experiences through its exclusive Bookshelf® platform to millions of learners at 7,000 institutions. Bookshelf users opened more than 20 million digital textbooks last year and read more than 3.4 billion pages. Follow VitalSource on Twitter at@VitalSource.