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Associations Offer 6 Principles for Leveraging Analytics in Higher Ed

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Analytics can save higher education, according to a bold new statement from the Association for Institutional Research (AIR), Educause and the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). The associations' call for action highlighted the importance of harnessing analytics to improve completion rates, campus operations, strategic decision-making and more.

The statement provided six "guiding principles" for analytics implementations in higher education:

  • "Go big — make an institutional commitment to analytics." In particular, the statement cautioned against looking for a one-size-fits-all approach, emphasizing that "each institution's mission, culture, organizational structure, and analytics maturity" should determine its analytics game plan.
  • "Analytics is a team sport — build your dream team." Analytics requires "an unrelenting expectation for collaboration across colleges, departments, and divisions of all kinds," with "strong buy-in from the top."
  • "Prepare for some detours on the road to success." The key to success in analytics is "authentic and sustained change," particularly in terms of making analytics a part of the institutional culture. "Each person on your campus — from the cabinet to the bursar's office and from students to deans — will likely find some aspect of your analytics transformation jarring," the statement warned. "Expectations must be managed."
  • "Invest what you can — you can't afford not to." Analytics requires "substantial investments in time, talent, and money" — beyond simply buying technology. Yet these investments are critical to helping students achieve their academic goals.
  • "Analytics has real impact on real people — avoid the pitfalls." Among the risks: data breaches, inappropriate sharing and use of data, algorithm biases leading to discrimination, and more. "Investments in analytic tools must be coupled with an institution-wide program of awareness, transparency, and training," the statement asserted.
  • "Tick-tock, tick-tock — the time to act is now." The stakes are high: "For every semester we don't do everything we can to ensure student success — including using analytics to increase student progress and completion — students leave our campuses without graduating, discouraged and more in debt than when they entered. For every year we fail to use data effectively to improve operations or to make better financial and business decisions, we threaten the financial sustainability of our institutions."

"Analytics has the power to help solve some of higher education's biggest problems, but progress has faltered," commented NACUBO President and CEO Susan Whealler Johnston. "This new statement can help leaders immediately begin to implement analytics on campus and tap into the mission-critical insights it can provide."

"For a while now, our progress on institution-wide analytics initiatives has not hit its stride," said John O'Brien, president and CEO of Educause. "We hope this statement encourages a sense of urgency and fosters a deeper understanding of the benefits of data analytics for institutions of all kinds."

"This statement emphasizes the importance of investing in the data literacy of individuals across the institution," said Christine Keller, executive director and CEO of AIR. "We all have a common goal — student success. It's time for an institution-wide commitment to the informed and ethical use of data analytics to help us reach that goal."

AIR, Educause and NACUBO posted their joint statement on a website here, and plan to release additional analytics resources to "further support colleges and universities in their implementation processes."

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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