I recently had the opportunity to visit Orlando, FL to attend the Enterprise IT Summit with HelioCampus CEO, Darren Catalano. The conference brought together members of the NACUBO, EDUCAUSE & AIR Associations, and the impetus behind the conference was to bring together leaders from across IT, IR and Finance to discuss ways they can work together to address institutional challenges. It suffices to say that challenges and opportunities abound.
Among the attendees at the conference were business officers, institutional researchers and CIOs, ranging from large public research institutions to small private colleges. I had the chance to speak to many of them and the message was consistent; each believes that analytics will play a critical role in helping to guide strategic decision making in the upcoming decade, especially analytics around student recruitment, financial aid and retention.
HelioCampus co-presented a session with UMass Lowell Associate Vice Chancellor & CIO, Michael Cipriano, and Julie Alig, Executive Director of Strategic Analysis & Data Management entitled "Preparing For the Future: Removing Institutional Blind Spots." The main premise was that institutions should be thinking about analytics initiatives that centralize data from across the institution to make it accessible, understandable, and actionable. The UMass Lowell IT and IR teams shared their priorities and the decision-making process that led them to invest in an institution-wide analytics initiative. Additionally, they shared how they merged student records data with NSC Student Tracker data to better understand student mobility and success factors, and to develop statistical models to help predict admissions yield. The culminating result of the initiative will provide UML the ability to, ultimately, use analytics to better recruit and admit those students who have the highest likelihood of persisting, retaining and graduating. You can read more about the HelioCampus partnership with UMass Lowell here.
The Summit ended with a very thought provoking session on “The Ethics of Analytics.” EDUCAUSE defines analytics as the use of data, statistical analysis, and explanatory and predictive models to gain insight into and act on complex issues. However, the use of data to look at things from student behavior to departmental spending, and everything in between, can presents complex ethical questions that institutions need to consider before embarking on an analytics initiative.
The issue: Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should, and if we do, then what do we do with the information? How do we act on data? Are there defined “best practices”? The discussion illustrated the challenges surrounding student informed consent in an era of increased sensitivity toward student privacy. What data should and shouldn’t be used? How long should we keep that data? How do we nuance the identification of and communication with “at risk” students? By identifying a student as “at risk,” are we pre-determining their fate? Many who attended the session left wondering: do “best practices” really exist or just “common practices”? I left thinking: there is a world of opportunity to get this right!
It was great to see thought leaders come together to tackle these challenges. You are not alone. HelioCampus is looking forward to continuing to work with institutions to shape best practices and tackle institutional analytics challenges together.