Oct 19 2011

EDUCAUSE Launches Analytics Effort

Yearlong study will focus on improved administrative productivity, decision-making and student outcomes.

Analytics promises to improve administrative decision-making, teaching and learning on campus. That’s why EDUCAUSE, the professional association for IT in higher education, has launched a new initiative to advance analytics at America’s colleges and universities.

The analytics initiative, which will culminate in a national summit for higher education leaders next fall, was funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The initiative was announced at the EDUCAUSE 2011 Annual Conference in Philadelphia.

“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.”

Analytics relies heavily on IT and technology services to draw meaning from large data sets. Although EDUCAUSE is interested in how analytics can improve administrative decision-making, one important focus of the research is to study how analytics can improve student outcomes.

Analytics-based early interventions with students have already shown that they can demonstrably improve course completion rates. Purdue University, for example, uses the Signals program, a computerized system that tracks student academic progress and warns students in real time if they need to focus on certain areas.

According to Purdue, the Signals software monitors students’ behavior patterns and academic performance to determine if they are at risk of earning a low grade, and lets faculty intervene with suggestions on actions students can take to improve their grades. An intuitive stoplight theme lets students know if they are underperforming and prompts them to take action.

The EDUCAUSE analytics initiative has three primary objectives:

  • Frame the issues associated with analytics in higher education;
  • Develop education, resources and professional development programs;
  • Conduct a major benchmarking study of the state of analytics in higher education.

“Analytics holds transformative promise for education, but the field is still in the developmental stages,” Oblinger said. “EDUCAUSE’s program to mature the field comes at the right moment for higher education.”

Another analytics initiative is being led by Dr. Phil Ice, vice president for research and development at the American Public University System. He will be speaking about the Predictive Analytics Reporting (PAR) Framework at EDUCAUSE on Friday, Oct. 21.

For more coverage on EDUCAUSE 2011, visit our EDUCAUSE 2011 Coverage page.