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Web Community To Share Higher Ed Analytics Practices

Conversations on the topic of analytics across institutions in higher education may accelerate through funding by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The non-profit has just supplied a grant to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to develop and support a new group called the Action Analytics Education Partnership. This collaboration encompasses online communities specifically to propel the sharing of experiences, metrics, and best practices in the use of analytics and predictive modeling in higher ed.

The partnership has developed two online communities: the Public Forum on Action Analytics and the Action Analytics Community of Practice, both available free to people in colleges, universities, and for-profit and adult education programs via edu1world.org. Edu1world is a networking site for institutional people and those selling into the higher ed market. The Community of Practice has a more stringent set of requirements for membership, including a willingness to contribute case studies, participate in discussions, submit community resources, and help formulate best practices. That community's work will be compiled and released to the broader membership in time.

Action analytics is a term used to describe the use of business intelligence--data, statistics, predictive modeling, and visualization--to promote student success, institutional efficiency, and institutional transparency.

Besides Minnesota State, the partnership membership roster includes Capella University; Shank Institute of Innovative Learning, a non-profit think tank focusing on future technology and learning organizations; and Strategic Initiatives, a management consulting firm with expertise in action analytics.

"[The Minnesota State Colleges and University System] has been very active with our own action analytics initiatives with a state-level focus on performance improvement and accountability across all 32 of our institutions," said Linda Baer, senior vice chancellor of academic and student affairs and a participant in the partnership. "We have successfully used action analytics to improve the performance of underserved students and to revitalize our [science, technology, engineering, and math] (STEM) programs. We will be contributing these experiences and many, many others to the online Community of Practice."

Likewise, Capella U has been using advanced analytics techniques, according to newly appointed Interim President Michael Offerman, who also served as president of the private institution from 2001 to 2007. During that period the university grew from 2,000 students to 27,000. "We have been using predictive modeling and analytics to deal not just with recruitment and strategic enrollment management but to ascertain students' likely success, to determine when their behaviors and level of engagement suggest they may be at risk of failing, and to effectively intervene," said Offerman.

The partnership said it would shortly host a Webinar summarizing the results of a recent symposium on the topic of action analytics. That will be recorded and made available on demand for members at edu1world.org.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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