Understanding Persistence Indicators


This article provides an overview of the Student Persistence predictive model and a recommendation for how to best utilize the risk indicators positioned throughout Student Success & Engagement for evaluating the risk associated with students completing a course and the risk associated with students persisting to a future term.

  • All deployments of Watermark Student Success & Engagement include both the Course Completion model and the Student Term Persistence Model.
  • These models represent the risk assessment of course completion and student persistence in your SS&E instance by displaying risk indicators on a student record.

This is explained in more detail under the Risk Calculation section below.

Predictive Modeling

A Student Success & Engagement predictive model is created by applying statistical methods to historical data of an Institution to derive a mathematical equation that produces a predicted probability of a desirable event occurring.

Essentially, it is a process used to identify the historical characteristics and behaviors collectively demonstrated by a student in relation to a student's completion of a course or persistence of a future term.

Risk Calculation

Risk Score

The output of the predictive model equation is a Risk Score between 0 and 100 used to predict the probability of success.

Risk Level

This risk score is transformed into a Risk Level represented by the colors Red, Yellow or Green which display on a student record.

The colors represent the following student level of course completion and/or student persistence risk:

  • Red - High Risk
  • Yellow - Medium Risk
  • Green - Low Risk

Risk Thresholds

Risk levels are set by each individual institution as they are determined by using Risk Thresholds that are decided upon after completion of the predictive model in collaboration with your Institution.

  • Depending on the risk thresholds, each institution can decide how to apply the high/medium/low risk levels based on what corresponding risk score range represents which risk level.
  • By setting the upper and lower risk threshold, each risk score will fall into one of the three risk levels of Low Risk (Green), Medium Risk (Yellow), or High Risk (Red).  

For example, if an institution sets their upper risk threshold at 80% while the lower risk threshold is set to 70%, this means that their three risk level categories are above 80%, between 70%-79.99%, and below 70%.


Risk Types

There are two different types of risk calculated and displayed within SS&E. These are:

  • A student's course completion risk
  • A student's term persistence risk

A risk indicator is assigned to both new and returning students for the sub-population of students identified during the preliminary model review meeting held with your Institution.

  • In most cases, predictive modeling is applied to the 'general' population of students at your institution after removing all non-degree seeking students which is usually identified by excluding Continuing Education and High School student sub-populations.
  • However, in some cases, your Institution may have opted to include alternative or multiple degree seeking and non-degree seeking sub-populations in your risk assessment strategy.
  • Please refer to the Predict model documentation provided to your institution at the time of your final model review or inquire with your institutional SS&E Administrator for details.

Term Persistence Risk

When calculating student term persistence risk assessments, historical student information including but not limited to academic ability, ability to pay, geo-demographic characteristics, past institutional academic performance, etc. are analyzed to produce a predicted probability that a student having registered for at least one course in the upcoming term will persist to the very next term.

The predicted term persistence risk is assigned to each student at time of registration for their first course in the upcoming term and is then re-evaluated daily taking into consideration subsequently collected data on the student.

Risk Indicator Display

The SS&E Risk Indicator is a symbol (e.g.  Ana2.png) used to represent Risk Level at both the Student and course level. Risk Level is represented by this indicator placed at the student level  (i.e. by the students name) on the Daily Activity feed and the Case Load navigator within the student profile screen and is meant to provide the user with a high level indication of the respective risk prompting the user to explore the Risk Score (See Risk Score section below) further if warranted (See Risk Score section below). A institution that has only implemented the base Course Completion model will have only one Risk Indicator visible on the student record, however, in cases where a Term Persistence model is also implemented two indicators will be visible. The Term persistence indicator will always be located to the left of the Course Completion indicator, however, you can hover over either indicator in order to identify, of the two, which is indicating which risk. An example of these indicators displayed on each student level record is shown below.




It is important to understand that when predicting Student Persistence Risk with the term persistence model the prediction is for the student and explains their likelihood of persisting to the very next term. Thus the Risk Indicator is a direct reflection of that students risk to persist. 


Risk Indicators regardless of whether it is representing Course Completion Aggregated Risk or Student Persistence Risk can be used to filter students within the Student News Feed, Advanced Search or message view within SS&E. An example of the filtering used within the Activity feed is shown below.


Risk Score Display

While Risk Indicators can provide us with an indication of student risk, Risk Scores provide a more detailed visual of Student Persistence Risk and Course Completion Risk. The bar below can represent the Risk Score for student persistence when displayed within the Student profile header or for course completion when displayed within the course section title for each course listed within the Term tab.


The percentage listed (Risk Score) is the probability of the student persisting opt the next term or completing the respective course and the Risk Level is identified via the color of the bar. Notice the bar represents 100% when fill completely, however, the bar will be filled only to the level of the Risk Score demonstrated for each situation.

Clicking on the Risk Score will open up a new window providing further insights into the Success and Risk factors influencing the students likelihood to Persist or Complete a specific course.



Administrators can choose which roles within their institution or to even show model results at all. To Configure the model(s) at your institution visit Administration from your profile drop down and select Configuration within the Analytics section of your side navigator.


Risk Indicator Usage

In the scenario where a Student Persistence model is installed for the Institution using the student level risk indicator will alert the student success team of a potential medium or high risk student that are at risk of not returning during the next term. Using both models in tandem provides an additional layer of insight into a student and their potential boulders presenting challenges with Persistence and / or Course Completion for a student.




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