Analytics for the Whole Institution; Balancing Strategy and Tactics

Following on from last week’s introductory and overview briefing paper, Analytics, what is changing and why does it matter?, this week we start to publish the rest of our series, beginning with “Analytics for the Whole Institution; Balancing Strategy and Tactics” (by David Kay and Mark van Harmelen)

Institutional data collection and analysis is not new to institutions, and most Higher Education Institutions and Further Education Colleges do routinely utilise collect data for a range of purposes, and many are using Business Intelligence (BI) as part of their IT infrastructure.

This paper takes an in-depth look as some of the issues which “pose questions about how business intelligence and the science of analytics should be put to use in customer facing enterprises”.

The focus is not on specific technologies, rather on how best to act upon the potential of analytics and new ways of thinking about collecting, sharing and reusing data to enable high value gains in terms of business objectives across an organisation.

There a number of additional considerations when trying to align BI solutions with some of the newer approaches now available for applying analytics across an organisiation.  For example, it is not uncommon for there to be a disconnect between gathering data from centrally managed systems and specific teaching and learning systems such as VLEs. So at a strategic level, decisions need to be taken about overall data management, sharing and re-use e.g. what sytems hold the most useful/ valuable data? What formats is avaiable in? Who has access to the data and how can it be used to develop actional insights? To paraphrase from a presentation I gave with my colleague Adam Cooper last week “how data ready and capabile is your organisation?”, both in terms of people and systems.

As well as data considerations, policies (both internally and externally) need to be developed in terms of ethical use of data, and also in terms of developing staff and the wider organisational culture to developed data informed practices. Of course, part of the answers to these issues lie in sharing in the sharing and development of practice through organisations suchs as JISC. The paper highlights a number of examples of JISC funded projects.  

Although the paper concentrates mainly on HEIs, many of the same considerations are relevant to the Further Education colleges. Again we see this paper as a step in widening participation and identifying areas for further work. 

At an overview level the paper aims to:

*Characterise the educational data ecosystem, taking account of both institutional and individual needs
*Recognise the range of stakeholders and actors – institutions, services (including shared above-campus and contracted out), agencies, vendors
*Balance strategic policy approaches with tactical advances
*Highlight data that may or may not be collected
*Identify opportunities, issues and concerns arising

As ever we’d welcome feedback on any of the issues raised in the paper, and sharing of any experiences and thoughts in the comments.

The paper is available to download from here.