Jun 09 2023
Data Analytics

Gates Foundation Awards Grant to Help Universities Make Data-Driven Decisions

The grant is funding a multiorganization partnership that aims to create an actionable guide for universities to incorporate data analytics.

A collaboration between the Association for Institutional ResearchEDUCAUSE and the National Association of College and University Business Officers — funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — is continuing its efforts to improve the way higher education institutions use data to drive student success.

The educational and research groups have been working together since 2019 when they released “The Joint Statement on Analytics,” which calls for colleges and universities to use student data to develop “new, innovative approaches for improved student recruiting, better student outcomes, greater institutional efficiency and cost-containment, and much more.”

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The grant from the Gates Foundation, a nonprofit started by the Microsoft co-founder and his former wife, seeks to extend those efforts, particularly among “historically underserved student populations.” The goal of the project is to produce a “succinct, actionable guide to assist higher education institutions in building data-informed cultures and enhancing capacity for leveraging analytics.” The groups also hope to improve communication and the dissemination of information both between and within institutions, something that has been a challenge in the past.

“Effective analytics capacity development requires collaboration,” AIR Executive Director and CEO Christine M. Keller wrote in a press release. “This project will align our three associations around an issue that is critical to student success. Having institutional researchers, IT professionals and business officers collaborate on this project will help break down institutional silos that often hamper data use.”

LEARN MORE: What is CEDS and how can universities use it to share data?

The use of data analytics to inform decisions has swept through nearly every industry in the past decade, higher education included. Institutions are using learning analytics to inform the way they deliver instruction and construct curricula, and they also implement chatbots and other machine learning tools to offer custom data-driven pathways for student retention and success. They are also including the principles of Big Data in campuswide instruction to prepare students for the growing data analytics workforce.

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