‘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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Changes in university email?

From the Chronicle: Are College E-Mail Addresses on the Way Out?

A report from Educause on IT issues in higher education suggests that provision of university email addresses for students may be a thing of the past.

It found, among other things, that in 2008 nearly 10 percent of associate, baccalaureate, and master’s institutions as well as 25 percent of doctoral institutions were considering putting an end to student e-mail addresses because so many students were already using personal e-mail accounts. That is a large shift from
typethe 1 to 2 percent of institutions that were considering this in 2004. The survey also highlighted findings from IT categories like networking and security, information systems, faculty and student computing, financing and management, and organizational structure and leadership.

Whilst there may be short term savings here, there are significant challenges in maintaining accurate lists for communication purposes but, as importantly, the ability to retain connections with alumni, through life-long email addresses, is greatly compromised.