Higher Education

, Volume 76, Issue 5, pp 903–920 | Cite as

Linking early alert systems and student retention: a survival analysis approach

  • Renato Villano
  • Scott Harrison
  • Grace Lynch
  • George Chen


Higher education institutions are increasingly seeking technological solutions to not only enhance the learning environment but also support students. In this study, we explored the case of an early alert system (EAS) at a regional university engaged in both on-campus and online teaching. Using a total of 16,142 observations captured between 2011 and 2013, we examined the relationship between EAS and the student retention rate. The results indicate that when controlling for demographic, institution, student performance and workload variables, the EAS is able to identify students who have a significantly higher risk of discontinuing from their studies. This implies that early intervention strategies are effective in addressing student retention, and thus an EAS is able to provide actionable information to the student support team.


Early alert systems Student retention Learning analytics Survival analysis 



The authors acknowledge the support of the staff at the case study institution in making an expansive data set available for analysis. We also wish to acknowledge the three anonymous reviewers and the editor for their helpful comments and suggestions. The usual caveat applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renato Villano
    • 1
  • Scott Harrison
    • 1
  • Grace Lynch
    • 1
  • George Chen
    • 1
  1. 1.UNE Business SchoolUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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