3 Ways Data is Improving Higher Ed

July 21, 2014 Kristen Hicks

Discussions about data and analytics are taking place throughout the business world. Data provides insights into what people do and how they do it. Collecting the right information gives businesses the power to predict what the results of taking certain actions will be, which helps them to make better decisions.

What works for businesses can work for institutions of higher education too. The more data you can track on what’s working and what needs work, the more information you’ll have to help drive decisions that will improve results. Data has already made its way into higher education, and it’s already making a difference in how well students and schools perform.

Here are three ways data is being leveraged to improve educational outcomes.

Helping students make better long-term decisions. Colleges have access to an extensive amount of data regarding student behavior and success. Only recently have they started to think about using that data to empower students to make better decisions.

Incoming students are pressured to choose majors and courses that will influence their eventual career paths; however, many of them haven’t decided what they want to do after graduation. In addition, many who have declared a major aren’t sure if their skill sets match the requirements of the courses they’ll be taking and the professions they’ll be pursuing. 

Predictive analytics can help colleges turn the data they already have into actionable advice for students. Based on data collected from past students, schools can help point current students toward the right careers.

Helping students study more efficiently. Recognizing personal limitations in knowledge and study habits is an important step to doing good research. Students who think they have a subject down won’t put as much effort into it, which is fine, if they’re right. The problem is that people aren’t always good at recognizing what they know and don’t know.

With embedded assessment, which collects data on how students are learning, students can gain valuable feedback regarding where they need to focus their study efforts. Students with a clear picture of where their strengths and weaknesses lie can refine their study habits for better efficiency and better results.

Helping institutions improve the resources available to students. Data makes it possible for universities to better recognize institution-wide trends that influence the experience of students. For example, data helped Georgia State University understand why many of its students were leaving between their freshman and sophomore years. Data helped the school to refine the courses that were causing students problems, and as a result, student retention improved.

The Texas State Technical College West Texas used the data it collected through embedded assessment to better identify students who needed extra help and to provide them with remediation resources, which improved student outcomes. In addition, the pass rate for its nursing students taking the NCLEX test soared to 100%.

Collecting data is important, but data must be analyzed in order to gain insight from it. It’s only after pinpointing the trends within the data that you’re able to create an effective plan for improving results in specific areas.


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