Students expect their data to be put to good use

Data use and personalized communications are a deal maker (or breaker) in campus recruitment and future giving.

Students are increasingly using their expectations of and actual experiences with data and personalized communications to dictate their enrollment and future giving, according to a new survey from software and services provider Ellucian.

The annual survey, released at EDUCAUSE 2018, shows that personalized communications weigh heavily in students’ decisions about which institution to attend.…Read More

Get on board with data integration

The modern, public university is arguably facing more strain than ever before—both from outside and inside its walls. Marked by new competitors and declining funding, the state of today’s higher-ed marketplace has driven more public universities to turn to technology as a holy grail for readying them to compete.

Universities are complex systems, comprised of thousands of departments, specialty schools, and student groups. They’re facing competition from for-profit institutions and tech startups, and the state funding for public universities is declining year over year.

A cross-sectional view of several macro-level trends in higher ed paints a clear picture on why this complexity is significant, and how technology will be a defining factor in addressing it.…Read More

Middle Tennessee State University: Pressing forward on the quest for student success

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), a public research university of 22,000 students, is located in Murfreesboro, southeast of Nashville and almost exactly in the geographic center of Tennessee. Its student body is 50% Pell Grant eligible, 50% first generation, and 40% minority. It has recently received wide recognition for improvements in the rates at which its students persist from one year to the next. The improvement has been gradual, steady, and impressive: In fall 2012, MTSU’s rate of year-to-year retention was 65.2%; by fall 2016, it had risen to 76.4%. This represents the highest level of retention in the modern history of the institution.

How has this transformation come about?
MTSU made a strong commitment to student success—and followed through on it with a set of concrete steps to transform the ways in which it helps students achieve success. A little more than four years ago, MTSU advised its students in a traditional way. Advisors held meetings with students to ensure that they carried out the basic business transactions necessary to register themselves for the following semester’s classes. At these meetings, advisors had scant information at hand on their students’ backgrounds and experiences and they faced large caseloads of students, all of whom needed to see them in a short period of time. As a result, advisor-advisee meetings typically did not include discussions about how the proposed classes did or did not align with the student’s recent academic effort, progress toward completing a degree or a major, or career plans.

The model is quite different today. MTSU, recipient of a 2015 grant for Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS), has been pressing forward in the pioneering use of data collection and sharing to maximize the potential of these advising relationships. In doing so, the institution has achieved significant increases in the rates at which students persist and, ultimately, complete degrees.…Read More

Using workforce data to improve student outcomes

So, what do you want to be when you grow up? This seemingly innocuous question gets pretty weighty for college students as they make the decisions that could easily determine their life’s trajectory. And while some students are clear on their career choices, others need more information and guidance, such as which courses will best equip them with the skills employers value and whether their chosen profession will remain in demand.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute indicates that for young college graduates, the unemployment rate is 5.3 percent, while the underemployment rate is 11.1 percent in 2018. While that’s good news for around 80 percent of graduates, it still leaves one-fifth who are not finding suitable post-college employment. Perhaps even more alarming is a Gallup study that found “a crisis of confidence” among most students regarding their readiness to launch careers, specifically:

  • Only a third of students believe they will graduate with the skills and knowledge to be successful in the job market (34 percent) and in the workplace (36 percent).
  • Just half (53 percent) believe their major will lead to a good job.

At a time when higher education institutions are being held increasingly accountable for student outcomes and striving to prove their worth as an investment, the six-year completion rate for those who enrolled in 2011 was 56.9 percent. This number indicates that colleges and universities could be doing more to ensure that students see tangible value from their education in the form of a defined career path.…Read More

How we improved decision making at Indiana University

You don’t have to look far to understand that data is arguably an organization’s most valuable asset. The Economist declared that “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data,” while Facebook is being scrutinized over its handling of data and how it may have been used to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. However, many higher education institutions fail to recognize the value of the data they hold beyond their day-to-day operational needs.

In 2015, Indiana University embarked on the Decision Support Initiative (DSI). Our goal was to improve decision making at all levels of the university by dramatically enhancing the availability of timely, relevant, and accurate information to support decision makers.

Higher ed institutions produce an abundance of data from our systems of record (financial, student, HR, learning management, etc.) that are valuable to inform decision makers, but often the data is not accessible in a timely manner for the people who need it. Decision makers rely on analysts that “know the data,” where to find it, and how to massage it for the question of the day. The result? One-time solutions that must be recreated many times, based on the personal knowledge analysts have acquired, with varying results. DSI strives to put information directly in the hands of decision makers, using well-curated and documented data sources so they may make data-informed decisions.…Read More

Innovation corner: Hitting back against data attacks

Colleges and universities have more data than ever, and with that exponential increase in sensitive information has come the prying eyes of hackers hoping to find their way into those massive data silos.

dataData breaches aren’t just disastrous public relations for universities — they can also be terribly expensive, with schools having to purchase credit monitoring services for thousands or tens of thousands of students, parents, and campus employees.

Just ask officials at the University of Maryland, which suffered a nightmarish cyber attack that compromised more than 280,000 records stored on campus servers. It marked one of the largest higher education breaches in recent memory.

UM decision makers pledged to identify sensitive information in university databases to determine whether they are needed and how to better isolate them, along with examining national cybersecurity policies and best practices to establish an appropriate balance between centralized security and broad access on university networks.…Read More

There’s a Big Data skills gap in higher education

Higher education is overflowing with data points to be parsed, analyzed, and evaluated, but a data-related skills gap could stand in the way of analytics’ potential.

big-data-skillsData experts have for years said college students should become adept at analyzing what’s known as Big Data as jobs in the data field explode in some parts of the economy. A human element is necessary, these experts say, no matter how much data in available.

SAS on March 24 unveiled an online program known as SAS Analytics U — an initiative meant to better train students on the ins and outs of data analytics skills while providing an online platform where they can discuss data-centric topics amongst each other and with experts.

Six ways Big Data is changing higher education…Read More

4 questions every institution needs to answer

New report on scarcity of “useful” postsecondary data details what questions higher-ed institutions should answer

questions, institutions, dataAccording to a new report, there are basic questions institutions, with access to internal data, need to be able to answer—for themselves and for prospective students and the community. It’s up to institutions, notes the report, to help combat rising college costs and stagnating rates of completion through better collection and dissemination of data.

The report, “Mapping the Postsecondary Data Domain: Problems and Possibilities,”produced by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, says that while seemingly straightforward questions, such as “Which students have access to which colleges,” can’t easily be answered with current data available.

“A careful mapping of federal data systems against these questions shows that while we have a solid base of understanding in some areas, we fall far short in others,” notes the report.…Read More

5 cutting-edge privacy considerations for Big Data

White House, MIT host discussion on the new implications for privacy and learning with Big Data

bigdata Big Data is taking higher education institutions by storm; however, the discussion has moved from whether or not Big Data is useful to whether or not institutions can actually manage the data received, and not just in capacity, but in privacy—privacy that, according to leading experts, is just an illusion.

During a “Big Data Privacy Workshop: Advancing the State of the Art in Technology and Practice,” co-hosted by the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) and the MIT Big Data Initiative at CSAIL in Cambridge, MA, thought leaders from academia, government, industry and civil society came together to discuss the future role of technology in protecting and managing privacy.

The workshop, one of a series of events being held across the country in response to President Obama’s call to review privacy issues in the context of increased digital information and the computing process to power it, offered cutting-edge considerations for not only higher education institutions, like MIT, but business and the health care industry.…Read More

Google wants to teach everyday folk to interpret data

If you’ve been to a tech conference, or even just browsed through the odd tech site, then you’ve probably seen the term “Big Data” used over and over again in the past couple of years, memeburn reports. The trouble is that the term’s made any form of data seem pretty scary and impenetrable. Enter Google’s new massively open online course (MOOC) “Making Sense of Data“. The course, which is available from 18 March to 4 April, aims to help anyone who wants to learn more about how to structure, visualize, and manipulate data…

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