Nov 30 2017
Data Analytics

4 Best Practices for Increasing Data Usage in Higher Education

Thought leaders outline their tips for dealing with data effectively and securely.

Data has permeated higher education in a lot of different ways. Experts have emphasized the continued need to analyze data to determine the success of programs and initiatives.

But with the Internet of Things advancing into a variety of aspects of campus life, higher education institution stakeholders now have an immense amount of data at their fingertips, which can be drawn from to make better decisions.

So, how can they leverage it effectively?

1. Start with Clean Data

For Brad Wheeler, the vice president for information technology at Indiana University, the first step on any data journey is to do the laundry. Wheeler told EdTech at EDUCAUSE 2017, that data laundry — the process of cleaning data sets down to find the relevant pieces of information — is an important part of making data-driven choices.

With so much data flooding university systems, breaking data down into the pertinent information helps stakeholders put it into context and use it for decision-making, said Wheeler.

2. Prepare to Have Some Local Support

While some universities work with third-party vendors to clean and break down data, Wheeler said that all universities must be prepared to have some local IT support for business intelligence solutions.

Since data analytics solutions will be working with an institution’s network, data center and/or cloud infrastructures, Wheeler said IT support needs to be on hand to make sure it is all running smoothly.

3. Identify Stakeholders and Teach Them Data Governance

Although many data-driven decisions take place at the highest level of university leadership, Wheeler told EdTech that some of the most important decisions involving data will be made by faculty and department chairs.

For this to be effective, universities need to make sure faculty have access to the data they need on the devices they wish to use. However, security can become an issue with educators accessing institutional data on personal devices and networks.

Joanna Grama, the director of cybersecurity at EDUCAUSE, told EdTech that universities should put in place solid data management and data governance policies so employees know how to use data safely.

For example, Grama suggested that users should think about public Wi-Fi with the same caution as a public restroom.

“We need to train our students, faculty and staff to have that level of awareness about what they are doing when they are conducting their work remotely or on the go,” said Grama.

4. Develop a Data Analysis Process

For higher education institutions, Wheeler said embracing some sort of data analysis process is going to be integral to successful strategies. If leaders fail to get data into the hands of stakeholders, he said they are at risk of falling behind other institutions and becoming less appealing to students.

“If [universities] have a lot of data, they can understand students better. They can understand faculty better. They can understand a lot of things that will drive success in higher education,” he said.

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