Drowning in Data but Thirsting for Insight

Colleges and universities overcome tough questions about student outcomes.

GUEST COLUMN | by Keith Rajecki

CREDIT Oracle educationRemember the days of sink or swim? When getting a student in the door was considered success? Well, those days are long gone. Today, outcomes are top of-mind for every campus leader, with colleges and universities worldwide placing a hyper-focus on improving student success and enabling all students to accomplish the educational goals they set out to achieve. But improving outcomes isn’t easy, and institutions are grappling with tough questions such as:

“How do I enable students for the workforce?”

“What must I do to increase course and degree completion?”

“How do I deliver the personalized learning and experience my students expect?”

“What support do my students need throughout their journey with my institution?” 

Measuring student success is challenging because every student’s goal is different. For some, graduating from a degree program and securing a job in the workforce is their goal. But for others, transferring from a community college to a university, or earning a badge or certificate to earn a promotion at work or an increase in pay is their objective. So how do

Campus leaders, faculty, and staff are struggling to answer the tough questions that can unlock the secrets to improving outcomes and student success.

you measure success, improve outcomes, and help your students succeed? The answer is not more data – it’s better insight into and analysis of this data.

Data is certainly seeing its time in the spotlight. But even with the vast amounts of data available, many institutions continue to face a shortage of true insight. Campus leaders, faculty, and staff are struggling to answer the tough questions that can unlock the secrets to improving outcomes and student success. But they need better insight to predict outcomes, take action, and make better decisions, faster.

Recruit and Retain the Best

One of the secrets to improving outcomes is ensuring that you’re recruiting the best-fit students for your institution. Understanding the characteristics of the students most likely to succeed, and targeting your recruiting efforts at these students, improves your chances of boosting outcomes and completion rates. Data captured within the many systems on campus can provide facts about which students perform better than others. But when you marry that data with analysis, you can begin to see trends emerge. What you might find is that the prospective students you’ve targeted in the past are not the ones most likely to succeed. By uncovering this insight, you can refocus your recruiting efforts on the students most likely to thrive at your institution.

The same holds true for faculty and staff. Having the right people is critical to delivering the programs and support that students need to succeed. By understanding the traits of the best faculty and staff, institutions can target their search towards others who fit that profile.

Modern Students. Modern Expectations

Today’s students have high standards. They arrive on campus – either online or in person – expecting a modern, seamless, personalized experience. From their first interaction as a prospect, to their interactions in the classroom, through to their relationship as an alumnus, they expect their institution to know who they are and what they need, when they need it. Data can help institutions identify a student and provide some basic statistics about their interactions on campus. But with data, you only see half the picture. Institutions need insight into this data to spot trends, make connections, and uncover insight that alerts them of students who may be struggling, at-risk for going off track, or simply in need of some guidance. Once institutions gain that insight, they can target interventions, or deliver the personalized, relevant content they need to succeed. All of these activities, driven by insight, help improve outcomes by driving higher completion rates within a course, degree, or certification program. 

Empowering Lifelong Learning

In today’s world, learning doesn’t end when students leave the institution. Institutions worldwide must support lifelong learning by helping the current and next generation workforce gain access to education through badges, certificates, and competencies that help them learn a new skill, earn a raise, or change careers. How you measure success is different for every student. With insight, institutions can curate the right curriculum and services for each student, deliver content in context, and gain insight to individual and aggregated learning opportunities and best practices. Again, it’s not just reporting on the data – it’s using the data to uncover true insight so you can deliver on the promise of true lifelong learning in support of 21st century education.

So I challenge you – don’t just report on your data. Use it. Analyze it. Uncover hidden insight, and apply that insight to everything you do. As that is the key to improving outcomes and student success.

Keith Rajecki is Senior Director, Industry Solutions at Oracle Global Education and Research. With more than 17 years in the education industry, he has developed and implemented technology solutions for every aspect of information technology, including one of the first e-learning platforms as well as data center consolidation strategies. 


Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: