Open higher-ed data could be big for policymakers

Washington, D.C. — Federal and state governments need to do far more to increase the accessibility of education data, open data advocates said during a Jan. 7 event organized by the congressional eLearning Caucus.

openA more open approach to educational data, officials said, would better inform lawmakers on higher-ed policy issues and presumably lead to sensible legislation.

“Many states are so far from having accessible and machine-readable data, it’s crazy,” said Samantha Olivieri, director of data strategy at, a website that collects school rankings data.

The discussion was the fifth event organized so far the by the eLearning caucus, headed by Congressman Jared Polis, D-Col., and Congresswoman Kristi Noem, R-S.D.

The caucus officially launched 18 months ago.

“We’ve come a ways since then,” said Polis in January. “More members have direct experience. Awareness is increasing. But we certainly still have a long way to go.”

While other events have focused more broadly on online learning, this discussion was solely concerned with teaching members of congress and their staff about the benefits of open data. Even the subject of data privacy was tabled for the afternoon.

Data has been an increasingly common topic in Washington in recent months, since the Obama administration organized its second annual education Datapalooza and the McKinsey Global Institute released a report stating that open data could “unlock” up to $1 trillion in economic value for the education sector every year.

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