Higher education analytics leaders speak out on building support.
Have you ever had a great idea for an analytics project only to see it end up in approval purgatory? Or maybe you’ve had some initial successes with analytics and you’re ready to expand a program, but are struggling with new funding?
I talked to four analytics leaders in higher education to get their advice on how to gain buy-in for analytics projects:
1.Western Kentucky University (WKU): Strive for consistency. WKU uses analytics and data visualization software to support institutional research and reporting. With traditional data at their fingertips, leaders are now able to ask more complex questions. It’s no longer, “How many students does WKU have?” It’s more about how WKU can make these students more successful. What are the stumbling blocks for these students, and how can the university alleviate those? Analytics has also helped WKU automate much of its annual fact book.
Gina Huff, senior applications programmer analyst at WKU, believes consistent data quality is critical.
“The one word that comes to mind whenever you want to get more buy-in from your institution is ‘consistency’,” said Huff. “We want to make sure that we build trust. We want to make sure that constituents know that the data that we are going to provide is going to be good data. It’s going to be something that we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into. And it’s going to be something that’s going to hopefully ensure the success of our student body.”
2.Sinclair (OH) Community College: Use high-quality data for action: Sinclair developed a reporting tool to surface general reports and visualizations that are easily consumable by the end users. With a focus on student success initiatives, Sinclair uses analytics to identify at-risk students and the interventions they need to get back on track. In order to increase course completion rates, and ensure students earn labor-market value credentials, Sinclair has deployed analytics tools targeting completion rates and classroom efficiency.
Karl Konsdorf, acting director, research, analytics and reporting at Sinclair Community College says building trust is important, but you must provide information decision makers can act on.
“Number one, I have to make sure that the data is of high quality so people will believe in it and trust it,” said Konsdorf. “But they also must understand it, so data has to be presented in an easily-consumable format.”
Konsdorf continues, “We don’t want just charts and graphs. We want something that’s meaningful, that’s targeted, and an individual chair or faculty can connect with. We want them to connect with the data, just like they would with a student. We make sure the visualizations we present are relatable and actionable.”
(Next page: Data to individuals; the power of instant information)