Andrea Deau, Senior Director for Higher Education Programs, 1EdTech
Overcoming “Data Blindness”
New research published in the peer-reviewed Journal “Science” found that despite the vast amount of data available to universities, they lag behind industry, business, and government in deriving strategic value from that data. It can be difficult to achieve your strategic goals if you don’t know what you’re working with or if you can’t track your progress.
The study points out that one issue with universities being “data blind” is that many times, there is no one in charge of the data, and when there is, they have so many other responsibilities that it can fall by the wayside.
In my years of working at a research university and now with various higher ed institutions, I know there are a few steps institutions can take to make collecting and effectively analyzing data easier and more secure.
One of the big concerns is data privacy, which can get complicated with evolving rules and regulations. 1EdTech does review the privacy policies of thousands of tools and applications, and you can find more information on that in our TrustEd Apps Directory. We also have a TrustEd Apps Management Suite currently being used by K-12 districts, which lists curated edtech apps validated for privacy and integration. We are working with our members to make it more applicable to higher ed this year.
Outside of that, much of the work is already done for you, and many of you may already have or are currently creating a digital ecosystem for your campus. As you build it, I recommend using interoperability standards, including those created by the members of and certified by 1EdTech, to ensure your technology, tools, and apps all work seamlessly together.
An interoperable system also makes data easier to share between tools and systems so you can collect the information. Once you have it, standards, including 1EdTech’s Caliper Analytics®, can help make sense of the data and ensure you’re comparing apples to apples.
We are already seeing success with this strategy through our 1EdTech members.
The University of Michigan created the My Learning Analytics (MyLA) tool to provide students with information about their course engagement, which helps guide their decisions to improve academic outcomes and set personal goals for individual courses.
“Supporting faculty innovation is a cornerstone of our work, which means we need to be able to support a wide variety of edtech tools while also creating our own tools that enable new possibilities,” said Sean DeMonner, information systems executive director of teaching and learning at the University of Michigan. “The connectivity provided by 1EdTech standards, as well as our ability to influence those standards, means that we can enable seamless, data-rich integrations of commercial tools and our tools at a fraction of the time and cost while also trusting we can support a much larger collection of options for the faculty.”
Thanks to its data management platform, the University of California San Diego knows when it may have a student who needs additional support. The Student Activity Hub provides one secure space to store learner data without needing to pull the information from different applications. That allows faculty and advisors to track student progress and connect with student-facing technology.
“Our student activity hub helps us improve our students’ success, including enabling broader and deeper insight into student progress, personal messaging and reminders, understanding the impact of co-curriculars, and nearly limitless possibilities on connecting data from our edtech ecosystem,” said Vince Kellen, chief information officer at the University of California San Diego.
Penn State is consistently working to evaluate and, when needed, improve courses to serve students better. The university’s course improvement model asks faculty to evaluate and refresh courses on a regular basis. To do that effectively, they need data—especially data that tells them what content is being used and how.
“Having data that's easy to access and review is powerful when making decisions about tools and content to include in a course,” said Jen Stedelin, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Penn State. “We no longer have to rely solely on anecdotal evidence. Data also helps us better understand student behavior, so we can reach out and offer more timely help to students who may be struggling.”
These are just a few examples of 1EdTech members leveraging interoperability and standards to move away from “data blindness” and instead use the resources available to them to achieve their strategic goals.
About the Author
Andrea Deau is the senior director for higher education partnerships. She works closely with members to meet their challenges in the rapidly growing and evolving digital teaching and learning landscape. She has a robust professional history as an academic innovation leader focused on student-centered education and experiences.