Overcoming early analytics challenges at UMBC

Discussion created by timothyharfield on Jan 29, 2017


In 2011, Long and Siemens famously announced that big data and analytics represented “the most dramatic factor shaping the future of higher education.” Now, five years later, conversations about the use of data and analytics in higher education are more mixed. In 2016, the Campus Computing Project release an annual report that used the language of “analytics angst.” In a recent blog series for the EDUCAUSE Review, Mike Sharkey and I argue that analytics has fallen into a “trough of disillusionment.” What makes some institutions successful in their analytics where others flounder? How can we work to scale, not technologies, but high impact practices? Let’s examine one example.

The University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) began working with Blackboard Analytics in 2006. At that time, they simply wanted to support access to basic information to ensure that the institution was effective and efficient in its operations. Shortly after gaining access to their institutional data, however, they quickly began asking deeper questions about student success.

Since 2006, UMBC has become a recognized leader in the use of educational data and analytics in support of institutional performance, instructional excellence, and student success. In 2017, US News and World Reports ranked UMBC the 5th most innovative school in the nation, and 18th in terms of undergraduate teaching.

The success that UMBC has seen in recent years did not happen overnight. The university had to overcome early challenges that many institutions still face today, namely adoption and scale. How do you work with the right stakeholders to create a shared vision? Once you have the necessary support from institutional leaders, how do you meet their information needs while managing expectations?

According to Jack Suess, CIO at UMBC, the adoption of Blackboard Analytics tools at UMBC was fostered in two ways.

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