Over the summer we held two events in Manchester and London to discuss with institutions the importance of big data, what are the benefits of adopting analytics and what universities should do to get the highest ROI. While collecting data is an easy task per se, it is certainly not enough. Institutions need to know what kind of information they would like to find out, and what type of actionable insights they aim to distill. Moreover, people at universities, academics and administrative staff, need to be ready to change the way they have done their job so far.

We conducted a research project with the goal of providing and sharing with the higher education community the best practices and lessons learned from current Blackboard Analytics clients around the implementation and the adoption of an analytics solution.

We identified three main themes:

1.Understanding the role of the Executive Sponsor

Implementing an analytics solution does not happen overnight and requires the full support of university management. It is important to identify a sponsor among senior management and involve this internal champion in almost all phases of the process, leaving to him or her the task of gaining the buying-in of the other senior stakeholders while the IT team focus on the implementation.

2.Managing the cultural shift to Analytics
The cultural impact of analytics is huge: for the IT department, the administration staff, and for academic staff who now have a wealth of data available but need to learn how to use the findings and incorporate them into their teaching programmes.

Changing teaching practices from the top down is difficult, especially because “teachers tend to teach like they were taught”. But winning academics’ confidence is not impossible. As for the leadership management, it is imperative to proactively involve academic staff in the project, identifying few “project ambassadors”, and show them the tangible benefits coming from the analytics implementation.

3.Implementing and adopting a solution
First and foremost: analytics needs to be its own initiative. It is vital to have a specific project team in place, with the right people at the right levels, both functional and technical. Secondly, it is important to prioritise the needs that analytics are meant to solve and find a use that would provide a positive proof point for the solution. Last, but not the least, start small and build upon successes, and see analytics as an opportunity to find and correct any data errors hidden in your systems.

And as Aimee Cook, former Director of Institutional Research at Illinois Central College and now a member of the Blackboard Services Team said, remember that “institutional analytics is an evolution; not a discrete, finite project.”

To discover more about Learning Analytics check out our latest infographic.

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