Businesses and policy makers openly accept that they need data from their potential customers and competitors to make targeted and informed decisions. The question is why are universities and colleges any different? The fact is that they too can harness the power of student data so that it benefits both students and providers, both enhancing the student experience and retention, as well as making the whole operation run smoothly.
Surveys in the sector
The data landscape for HE has been undergoing an overhaul since the 2011 White Paper ‘Students at the Heart of the System'. Seven years later a lot has changed for the sector. Data driven decisions are more important than ever, and these decisions are powered by digital.
Due to the digital shift, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is coming. As of May 2018 all organisations will need to understand why and how their data is processed, as well as the right legal basis for processing the data. It might seem like a lot of hoops to jump though, but it’s necessary, and we shouldn’t shy away from using data and surveys to influence outcomes. The potential that data has to shape the sector for the better is enormous.
One example is our recent collaboration with the Higher Education Academy that allows universities outside the UK to use a package of student surveys and our student digital experience tracker.
Last year our student digital experience tracker asked over 22,000 students from universities and colleges across the UK about their experience of digital within their education. The findings showed that higher education students want staff to be better with digital, not to use more of it. At Jisc we’re helping organisations to act on these findings.
But this is just one example. The more surveys we do, the more information we’ll get, and the better informed teaching can be.
Learning analytics is just one of the ways in which data can be used to make the sector more efficient, and tailored to the needs of students.
Using data analytics in the education sector might seem like a daring move, but the benefits and insights analytics can provide far outweigh the risks. Student data that otherwise might have been discarded can improve student retention and even wellbeing, as well as helping sector professionals to tailor their teaching, and even inform wider institutional decisions. There are significant sector savings to be made when predictive analytics are used effectively.
At Jisc our learning analytics service has started the ball rolling. There’s an app that allows students to see how their learning activity compares with others so that they can set themselves targets and improve their learning activity.
Members of staff will be able to view student engagement and attainment, allowing them to spot individuals who might need more support, and to better understand how to make their teaching more effective. Finally, data managers will be able to access the student learning activity data, allowing them to undertake business analysis to improve the organisation’s efficiency and effectiveness.
There are ethical questions when it comes to using student data, of course. Our Code of practice for learning analytics can help to answer your questions, covering everything from legal context to staff training and everything in between.
What does the future hold?
Technology is advancing at an immensely fast pace. It would be remiss of the education sector not to keep up when it comes to using data effectively, to ensure well-informed business decisions. The potential for a slicker sector when it comes to using data to its full potential, is undeniable.
How can we help you?
I’ve been invited to speak on this subject in more detail at the Advance HE Surveys conference 2018, an event that is a valuable chance to explore how we can understand the needs of students, engage staff, and make informed decisions by using surveys to address key issues.
I look forward to seeing you all there and sharing some insights from Jisc, as well as exploring how education can join the data-driven masses.