Does this sound familiar?
- Data is not accessible – only a small group of people know what’s there, how to get to it and what to do with it.
- Data is siloed, and how/where it’s stored (index card?) varies greatly across the institution
- Strategic decisions are sometimes 100% not strategic, like a 15% across-the-board budget cut
- Everybody (and nobody) wants to own the data
A few weeks ago, Blackboard hosted its 2nd Higher Education Executive Symposium, a bi-annual event for presidents and provosts to roll up their sleeves and explore best practices in improving the education experience with Blackboard leadership. The 35+ high-level administrators in attendance on March 4th focused on data-driven decision-making to improve student performance and operational efficiency. Here’s a quick recap of the group’s discussion on using data to improve student achievement and operational efficiency:
First, here are some examples of how the attendees described what they want from data:
Data should be automated, available in real-time, easy to digest and transparent. At the same time, executives need to see the main indicators, while others across the institution may need to drill down further, according to National-Louis University President Dr. Nivine Megahed.
We know that getting administrators and educators what they want from data is a leap from where many institutions are today. But the consensus seems to be that with the right tools, and a few cultural changes, you can make a lot of headway. Here are a few things the group suggested to keep in mind when setting down that path:
1 – Executive leadership, not just executive sponsorship. The executive team should live the idea of fact-based decision making – and they need the tools to access data at their level. A local example of this dimension came up a lot; UMBC uses data to drive all levels of decision makers, especially the top. Here’s a quote from UMBC President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski at Educause that sums up how data-driven decision making can benefit executives, too:
“Now I can ask good questions immediately, find the answers myself and take the level of thinking to a deeper level of thought to get an even more interesting analysis….It makes a big difference in being able to make decisions that are far more data driven.”
2 – Avoid analysis paralysis. Keep it simple. The data doesn’t get any better if you’re not using it.
3 – Test assumptions. It’s important to constantly analyze academic program profitability. Programs that bring in the most money are sometimes the most costly, so the margin can be slim. Surprisingly, general education classes in some cases are the most profitable.
Stay tuned for more effective practices gleaned from Blackboard’s ongoing discussion on how to improve institutional and student performance with data. Learn right away by following us on Twitter.