Data Analytics Can Save Your University
For most universities, data analytics tools or technologies may seem like unnecessary indulgences in tinkering and experimentation. But the Association for Institutional Research, EDUCAUSE and the National Association of College and University Business Officers recently joined forces to argue in a joint statement that data analytics “can save higher education.”
More to the point, the three bodies made it clear that, while funding might be hard to come by, not investing in data analytics could be even more costly for higher education.
“For every year we fail to use data effectively to improve operations or to make better financial and business decisions, we threaten the financial sustainability of our institutions,” the statement notes.
The language is dramatic, but so is the need for higher education to evolve and prove its ROI to current and prospective students. Attending a four-year college can no longer be seen as a foregone conclusion for every high school student. This is especially true as college enrollment appears to be in a decline, with enrollment numbers falling by more than 2 million this decade, according to an analysis of data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center by former university president Michael T. Nietzel for Forbes.
Colleges and universities are going to have to entice students to attend their schools, and the ways students will be convinced that the investment in tuition will pay off will rely heavily on demonstrable ROI and the unique student experiences offered by specific institutions. Data analytics is the key to understanding and explaining that value proposition.
Follow the Lead of Pioneering College Students and Faculty
It’s no secret that many universities are standing up undergraduate and graduate degree programs in data analytics as the need for business intelligence continues to grow.
These programs are unleashing the creativity of college students who aren’t restricted when it comes to creative applications of data analytics. Recently, students from Cornell University won a $2,000 grand prize at the school’s second annual Digital Agriculture Hackathon after they successfully “developed a digital interface that utilizes a scoring engine, which uses data on crop production and market prices to predict how farmers can optimize their profits,” according to The Cornell Daily Sun.
Over at the University of Wyoming, Microsoft recently awarded two professors with a $15,000 grant each through its AI for Earth program, according to the university. By tapping into the processing power of artificial intelligence, molecular biology researchers Todd Schoborg and Jay Gatlin “will examine biomedical imaging datasets to understand the molecular basis of human disease.”
IT Operations Data Analytics Opportunities
We so often seek buried treasure in far-flung and remote places. But the beauty of data analytics when it is applied to IT operations is that most of the insights worth uncovering are right under your nose.
Splunk’s higher education platform specifically tracks “student registration systems, learning management systems, networks, web servers, log files, firewall data, remote sensors, mobile and online learning applications, legacy applications, application servers and structured databases,” according to the company.
By measuring, tracking and acting against operational data from these sources, higher ed IT administrators can prevent outages, mitigate threats earlier or uncover efficiencies that can enhance performance and improve reliability.
So, whether you start small or big, the most important thing when it comes to making an impact at your university with data analytics is to start now.
This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.