Katie Blot, SVP of Corporate Strategy at Blackboard, speaking at the Institutional Performance Conference

Katie Blot, SVP of Corporate Strategy at Blackboard, speaking at the Institutional Performance Conference

Last week, 180 individuals gathered for Blackboard’s 2nd Institutional Performance Conference (IPC) in Austin, Texas. At the event, we dug into a broad spectrum of trends and challenges in higher education with a focus on how to use data to increase student progression and success.

Data is without a doubt one powerful tool we have to help us achieve our goals in education. From data to inform institutional decision-making to data to enable personalized experiences – to, what I believe is the most powerful data of all – that which we deliver directly to the student to make choices about her own pathway. Turning data into action was a theme that presented itself in all sessions throughout the two days. Here are a few of my biggest takeaways from this great conference.

#1. When universities collaborate, students win

Bridget Burns speaking at IPC

Bridget Burns, Executive Director of the University Innovative Alliance

Bridget Burns, Executive Director of the University Innovation Alliance discussed the need to act with data to help students succeed. She noted that by 2025 the United States will have a shortage of 16 million college graduates compared to what we will need for our workforce. We simply don’t have enough people completing postsecondary education and we don’t have enough of the right degree programs for tomorrow’s workforce. Bridget and UIA are helping students achieve success through cross-institutional collaboration to promote innovation, scale, and diffusion. She spoke about the fact that we have lots of pilots and experiments happening – but very limited capacity to scale these innovations in service of large numbers of students. I was personally very moved by her powerful call to action to take down the barriers we have traditionally kept up and to openly share successes and failures in order to help us move everyone forward.

#2. With real time data access, you can create conversations and results

A number of our Blackboard Analytics customers shared how they are leveraging access to data to measure institutional performance and track student engagement and success. Paul O’Brien, Associate Vice President of Institutional Technology, and Kendall St. Hilaire, Admin. Director of the Virtual Campus at Indian River State College (IRSC) discussed how they used data to help drive successful growth in their Virtual Campus. Within 3 academic semesters, IRSC was able to eliminate the gap between face-to-face and online success rates by increasing awareness and conversations within all levels of the college.

#3. To survive change you have to be willing to change

On the second morning, we heard heard from two exceptional higher ed leaders. We were delighted to have Susan Aldridge, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Online Learning, Drexel University and President of Drexel University Online and Dr. Michael McCall, President Emeritus, Kentucky Community & Technical College System talk about how they have grown their institutions and how to solve current challenges. Susan said it best: “Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Set up programs focused on your strengths and where you can differentiate.” They both spoke about understanding the students you need to serve and using that to help drive your focus. And to not be afraid to make adjustments in order to do this. One of my favorite quotes of the week is this one from Mike: “to survive change you have to be willing to change.”

#4. Start with the end in mind


Closing keynote speaker of the Blackboard Institutional Performance Conference, Candice Carpenter Olson, Fullbridge Inc.

Thinking broadly about what success looks like to the student beyond just graduating and how we re-think our traditional model of student support was a theme throughout the two days. There was a lot of energy around ‘pulling things forward’ – from advising to career services – to have a larger impact on student success. Candice Carpenter Olson, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Fullbridge, Inc, concluded our conference. Focused on how we can help educate the next generation workforce and allow students to become great global contributors, Candice spoke about how student success interventions and work readiness training should start early in the college experience. She was met with a roomful of nodding heads.

We will be continuing these conversations about data and student success at BbWorld 2016, which takes place in Las Vegas, July 12 – 14. Our annual conference brings together thought leaders from around the world for educational sessions, product demonstrations, knowledge sharing, networking, and more.



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