“Assessment is just one source and use of data,” White explains. “It’s important, but there’s much more information a campus should be exploring.” A comprehensive approach can uncover valuable insights by tapping into a university’s datarich ecosystem. By leveraging data from all corners of their campus, institutions can strengthen learning outcomes, highlight co-curricular opportunities, identify which resources best serve students, and improve retention. He offers the example of a public university that had a significant retention challenge. The campus was good at identifying pre-matriculating atrisk learners, but limited in its ability to support them once they were enrolled. Campus Labs provided an integrated solution that helped the university connect its institution-wide data to identify which students needed specific support and then match these students with the right resources, including advising and tutoring services. After implementing the Campus Labs solution, the university saw a six-percent increase in retention.
Yet despite the possibilities of data, campuses remain challenged by the limits of their traditional infrastructure. White says that administrators and faculty, who typically function within well-defined departments, need to transcend the silos and see how all the data points come together. “When data is stored separately, this limits the institutional layer of data,” he explains. “Siloed solutions create a challenge because they don’t tell you the complete story. An enterprise approach to data is what’s necessary for transformative change on campus.”
An enterprise approach to data is what’s necessary for transformative change on campus
Most campuses already have much of the information they need; they’re just not efficient with their data resources. Recognizing that a significant amount of data isn’t collected effectively, the Campus Labs team offers tools that incorporate the day-to-day workflow into the data collection process. “As we build, we consider making this process a part of someone’s daily life, whether that’s a faculty member, administrator, or student.” Connecting an institution’s everyday data is essential to understanding a student’s journey through the entire campus experience.
In spite of the challenges facing higher education today– or perhaps because of them–White believes this is an exciting time for institutions. With the advances in data science and analytics, leaders at colleges and universities have the opportunity to transition from a point-solution mindset to an enterprise approach focused on institution-wide transformation. The Chief Information Officer plays a pivotal role in that transformation, and White recommends a stronger partnership with institutional effectiveness peers. “The CIO and IE teams need to move beyond the ‘data ask’ and begin to create a data layer and collaborate on a comprehensive approach.”