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Predicting student academic performance in an engineering dynamics course: A comparison of four types of predictive mathematical models
ARTICLE

## Shaobo Huang, Ning Fang

Computers & Education Volume 61, Number 1, ISSN 0360-1315 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd

## Abstract

Predicting student academic performance has long been an important research topic in many academic disciplines. The present study is the first study that develops and compares four types of mathematical models to predict student academic performance in engineering dynamics – a high-enrollment, high-impact, and core course that many engineering undergraduates are required to take. The four types of mathematical models include the multiple linear regression model, the multilayer perception network model, the radial basis function network model, and the support vector machine model. The inputs (i.e., predictor variables) of the models include student's cumulative GPA, grades earned in four pre-requisite courses (statics, calculus I, calculus II, and physics), and scores on three dynamics mid-term exams (i.e., the exams given to students during the semester and before the final exam). The output of the models is students' scores on the dynamics final comprehensive exam. A total of 2907 data points were collected from 323 undergraduates in four semesters. Based on the four types of mathematical models and six different combinations of predictor variables, a total of 24 predictive mathematical models were developed from the present study. The analysis reveals that the type of mathematical model has only a slight effect on the average prediction accuracy (APA, which indicates on average how well a model predicts the final exam scores of all students in the dynamics course) and on the percentage of accurate predictions (PAP, which is calculated as the number of accurate predictions divided by the total number of predictions). The combination of predictor variables has only a slight effect on the APA, but a profound effect on the PAP. In general, the support vector machine models have the highest PAP as compared to the other three types of mathematical models. The research findings from the present study imply that if the goal of the instructor is to predict the average academic performance of his/her dynamics class as a whole, the instructor should choose the simplest mathematical model, which is the multiple linear regression model, with student's cumulative GPA as the only predictor variable. Adding more predictor variables does not help improve the average prediction accuracy of any mathematical model. However, if the goal of the instructor is to predict the academic performance of individual students, the instructor should use the support vector machine model with the first six predictor variables as the inputs of the model, because this particular predictor combination increases the percentage of accurate predictions, and most importantly, allows sufficient time for the instructor to implement subsequent educational interventions to improve student learning.

## Citation

Huang, S. & Fang, N. (2013). Predicting student academic performance in an engineering dynamics course: A comparison of four types of predictive mathematical models. Computers & Education, 61(1), 133-145. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved March 22, 2023 from https://www.learntechlib.org/p/167785/.

This record was imported from Computers & Education on January 30, 2019. Computers & Education is a publication of Elsevier.

Full text is availabe on Science Direct: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2012.08.015