Numbers Crunchers

When contemplating higher education’s struggles in collecting and effective leveraging data, it’s useful to take a look at Amazon.

Anyone who has ever ordered from the online retailing giant is familiar with the Amazon experience. Buy an item, or even take an online glimpse at it, and you’ll quickly get a list of similar items that could pique your interest. With its state-of-the-art, lightning-fast data analytics, Amazon can look at your buying history, analyze your interests and deduce the kinds of items you’ll buy. It’s the key to Amazon’s success, central to the company’s business model.

Higher education collects and disburses reams of administrative data: enrollments broken down by age and gender; persistence and graduation rates; student progress and attainment rates; the percentage of students who arrived on campus in need of remedial education, to name just a few.

But community colleges collect and analyze precious little of the kind of data that can be used to directly advance the sector’s overarching goal: propelling greater numbers of students to graduation or the acquisition of a useful workforce credential. Colleges are slow to get the data where it needs to be — into the hands of faculty and students. Data that can help students in real time is lacking.

That was the central message of a featured session at the 2013 Innovations conference sponsored by the League for Innovation in the Community College. The discussion was guided by Mark Milliron — former League president and CEO and now chancellor of Western Governors’ University — who used the Amazon analogy to illustrate how higher education has been slow to leverage the kind of data and technological tools that are fundamentally reshaping retailing, health care and social networking. <Read more.>

Via Paul Bradley, Editor, Community College Week.