Ed-tech group to push for more analytics use in colleges

Analytics technology can help professors spot struggling students.

Analytics programs that use complex data sets to identify struggling students, the best ways to use campus budgets, and improve faculty and staff efficiency are coming to U.S. colleges and universities, courtesy of the educational technology group EDUCAUSE.

EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit organization that will begin its annual conference Oct. 18 in Philadelphia, announced a three-pronged ed-tech initiative aiming to bolster the use of analytics technology in higher education.

The initiative will include a “major benchmarking study of the state of analytics in higher education” that could provide a baseline that shows just how many campuses are using analytics to improve decision making and student analyses.

EDUCAUSE’s analytics program will end with a national summit for college and university leaders in fall 2012, according to the group’s announcement.

“Sophisticated uses of data and benchmarking have revolutionized business and industry,” said Diana Oblinger, president and CEO of EDUCAUSE. “These same techniques can deepen our understanding of learner success, improve our ability to track progress, and help us make the best decisions about campus resources.”

Campus technologists at the forefront of analytics use have discovered the benefits of computer-based models that show precisely how to save money and improve student grades, but Oblinger said analytics is far from mainstream use in higher education.

“Analytics holds transformative promise for education, but the field is still in the developmental stages,” she said.

A group of business schools announced last spring that their IT officials would provide free analytics software, SAS OnDemand for Academics (SODA), for college students to access outside the classroom.

The cloud computing-based service is used by more than 5,000 professors at 240 colleges and universities worldwide, according to SAS, which has been available for professors to use in class since 2008.

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