Dueling Tweets Signal “Next Frontier” in EdTech Data

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Reframing the Institutional Data Conversation

Admissions & enrollment leaders are ready to harness education technology data. But how are they preparing their campuses to analyze this information?

Members of the DecisionDesk team joined over 200 higher education leaders at the Eduventures Summit in Boston last week, “The Next Frontier.” While such bold, futuristic themes that can often be quite speculative, we left refreshed and excited. Attendees asked smart questions about the future while remaining confidently grounded in the present.

In-depth sessions detailed how the government is responding to student privacy concerns amidst increased vendor technology. And how net cost for lower income students at top institutions has actually decreased over the past decade, but has not lead to significant increases in access.

While we’ll be processing insights for months to come, during the lively chatter on Twitter during the event, we noticed two tweets that referenced the often contradictory ways edtech data is discussed on campuses:

Data is the Beginning

While it’s enlightening to see institutions embracing data, they almost certainly overestimate what improvements raw data can instantly provide. The demand for data scientists was mentioned across numerous sessions. While vendors and consulting firms such as Eduventures can help unlock data, institutions should also be making serious investments in data science on their campus. This includes not only training programs for staff, but also partnering with professors and graduate students to internally interpret institutional data. This isn’t easy. Jeff Alderson, an Eduventures analyst lays the groundwork for centralization of data, but notes “there are still issues with the taxonomy and definitions of what to send between systems, how often, and why.”

Siloed data slide from Jeff Alderson’s presentation on institutional-wide analytics.


But Data Isn’t the End

Don’t we all! This is perhaps the most vexing element of the technology “frontier.” How do we hold ourselves accountable to the why, especially as the questions themselves are changing? While we openly debate liberal arts, credentials, MOOCs, and earning potential, it’s vital that each institution boldly define their own purpose. Otherwise, we’re just chasing numbers with a sieve.

Can’t wait for next year. Thanks for Eduventures for hosting such a compelling conference!