‘Digital Intelligence’ for Higher Education

Is this the future? Or just a passing trend?

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A recent post discussed the possible benefits of learner analytics for delivering a more personalised education. Now we have a broader view as The Chronicle of Higher Education provides an update on Educause, the huge US Education Tech Trade Show in which it is observed that everyone is talking about digital intelligence or education analytics:

More than 7,000 college officials gathered here this week for what is probably the largest higher-education-technology trade show in the United States, the annual meeting of Educause. Walking the trade floor, where some 270 companies mounted colorful booths, serves as a reminder of how much of college life today happens in the digital realm, and how much colleges are betting on technology to help alleviate the many challenges they face. The biggest emerging trend this year is data analytics. Company after company here promises to sell systems that provide “data dashboards” to give professors or administrators at-a-glance reports on student activity in the name of improving retention or meeting other institutional goals.

Diana Oblinger, president of Educause, described it as giving colleges “digital intelligence.” What kinds of things have colleges learned from their newfound digital intelligence? One university discovered that a scholarship program it runs to bring in high-achieving students was attracting students who were the most likely to leave—to trade up and transfer to another institution after a year or two. A professor teaching an anatomy course learned that students took longer to finish the homework she assigned than expected, and that many seemed stuck on the same point. A library at one state university learned that tenure-track male professors were not using the library as much as tenured male professors were.

The potential of digital intelligence is undoubtedly huge. And it certainly isn’t a passing fad. However, getting the data inputs right in the first place is a far from straightforward task and then making sure it is used for best effect does need to be considered carefully – how are you going to deal with that data about professorial use of the library? Digital intelligence indeed.

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