Friday, July 31, 2009

Analytics at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (1)

Guest Blogger: Dr. Linda Baer, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, Minnesota State College and Universities

The concept of a comprehensive, technology-supported analytics capacity was an important element in the overall vision of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, created through the merger of three systems of institutions. The system was to ultimately serve a comprehensive continuum of educational needs from courses, certificates, diplomas, baccalaureates, through graduate degrees. The programmatic responses to these needs took on a range of forms, and analytics were developed to measure, monitor, and manage the programs. For MnSCU, vision, technology, and initiatives have come together, in an expeditionary manner, over time.

Creating the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System required merging three systems from the separate technical colleges, community colleges and state universities. One of the most critical issues for success in the merger was the ability to have common data. This was a big order given that the three systems had existed in very separate realms with different approaches to data including a wide range of practices around highly centralized data in the colleges to highly decentralized data in the state universities. Creating the capacity of all colleges and universities to operate within a more standardized system was the challenge. This constituted the first foundational work to ultimately create a futuristic, broad-based analytics system.

In order to create an integrated data system, it was necessary to develop standardized definitions of data, create a data warehouse, and craft the capacity to mine the data and retrieve data for reports and decision making across the thirty-two institutions.

Metrics and Analytics for Diverse Populations. The vision remained; serving the comprehensive continuum of educational needs, not only in terms of certificates and degrees but also the full continuum of services to an increasingly diverse student population. The technical colleges served adult learners, career changers and employer training needs. The community colleges served more traditional learners as recent high school graduates on occupational pathways or in transfer programs. The state universities served as comprehensive institutions serving as residential and commuting campuses with a wide array of student diversity.

Innovation Through Initiatives. Initiatives and programs were developed to assist these diverse campuses to work together on behalf of student learners. Initiatives included transfer articulation agreements between and among campuses; the development of baccalaureates of applied sciences with universities and technical colleges forming partnerships to design and deliver the curriculum; exploratory work on developing state-of-the-art, on-line student services and an expansion of targeted curriculum. Yet the key vision of serving the wide range of students required more – much more. Initiatives were developed to support serving underserved students in more flexible, personalized and customizable models. Student success was paramount with programs being developed in partnerships with K-12; middle colleges were created to serve a fused 11-14 grade level. A statewide P-16 Council was developed to begin to create better alignment between high school curriculum and college level courses. Firs- Year Experiences were launched at many campuses. As this reflects, there were many innovative projects.

Investing in Serving the Underserved. The state legislature funded a significant investment in serving the underserved student population; first generation, low income, at-risk students. The requirements were that campuses needed to develop more successful partnerships with high schools and create recruitment and retention strategies. The Board of Trustees and the Chancellor of the system created a campus-level dashboard that reflected progress towards the goal of improving serving underserved students as measured by enrollments and retention over time by race and gender. This year the accomplishments of the agreed-upon targets were used in the performance evaluation of each president.

Linking Activities and Metrics. The second foundation step is to begin to link these many activities. The technology and infrastructure capacity of the system was supporting a large data warehouse with selected data mining capabilities. The dashboard enabled full display of campus and system accomplishments. Yet, the question remained: What activities were contributing to the most student learning and student success? A beginning activity was to build a repository of best practices so all campuses could share and learn from the activities of others. Direct reporting required campuses to describe what programs led to what student accomplishments.

Boosting Analytics and Predictive Modeling. Realizing that the next big step was to develop analytic and predictive modeling capabilities, the system contracted with three vendors to assess the system capacity to go to the next level of analytics. Recommendations were provided that assisted the system in determining the next investments required to move to the next level where, using national, state and local data, we could develop student information dashboards so each faculty member could review where the student was academically and then advise the best academic choices for ongoing success. Curricular assessment could be made to see what components of course learning worked for students and what needed more emphasis so tutoring and advising could further align best learning experiences to accomplish successful learning. The goal is to be able to individualize the learning experience to where students can be advised in a manner where the message is: “Students like you were most successful in ultimately graduating in this field when they did the following… course pathways, simulation models, tutoring, summer enrichments, internships and apprenticeships, etc.”

The Technology Is Getting Smarter. Our capacity to assess and advise for success is getting smarter. We are compelled to continue to build the best action analytics and predictive modeling that we can to significantly improve student learning, student success, student matriculation and ultimately worker/professional success on the job or in the career of their choice. The imperative is to re-create and transform higher education to be the direct provider of successful learning experiences that lead to highly competent, globally competitive workers and professionals.

Our next steps include further exploration of better longitudinal student data across P-16. This will allow analysis of student course taking and success and also the assessment of what teachers are teaching what curriculum that result in better college and university success. In addition, we intend to link with workforce representatives and the department of employment and economic development to assess linkages between curricula, based on national industry standards and other curriculum and entry level worker competency, low-skilled adult training and skill development and targeted incumbent workforce professional development.

Tomorrow's blog will describe MnSCU's dashboard initiative in greater detail.

What Kinds of Graduates are Needed for the Post-Recession, Global Economy?

At the Annual Meeting of the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP), many presenters and a considerable amount of hallway chatter was directed at the question, “What kinds of educations and competences do graduates need to thrive in the re-imagined, highly competitive, global economy that will emerge as we lift out of the current recession?”

No surprisingly, the Answers to this Question Are Multi-Faceted. First, it is clear that thoughtful learners at all levels and in all settings need to align their capacities with the needs of the workforce. Moreover, learners need to be far more reflective about how they can truly demonstrate the sorts of competences that employers covet. We believe learners and families will get even more serious about these issues over the next few years.

Second, alignment with he needs of the economy can have vastly different meanings for an entry-level green career aspirant, an engineering graduate from a large state university, a liberal arts graduate from a small, well regarded private institution, or a masters degree graduate from an on-line, for-profit provider. Different people, different stages in development and careers, different industries, different aspirations.

Third, early attention to aligning with workforce needs need not translate into narrowing of options and systematically lowering of expectations for some groups. Career tracks should not become impermeable silos. One of the great strengths of American higher education has been our capacity for learners to have second and third chances at getting their act together (a weakness being that too many need second and third chances). At SCUP, Jonathon Kozol spoke eloquently of the need for minority students to be encouraged in their aspirations for a horizon-expanding liberal arts education, for example.

When we use the term “demonstrated competence” we do not mean an exhaustive punch list of micro-competencies, but a fully integrated set of skills and capabilities that enable individuals to function with confidence, flexibility and a voracious capacity for perpetual learning.

Competences in the Global World of Shared Sociability. In his breakthrough book, The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman outlines what learners need to know to thrive in the emerging world of global, shared sociability. In “Education for Exponential Times,” Diana Oblinger offers some fresh views that extend Friedman’s thesis. A consolidated description of the competences of the new model graduate contains:

• A foundation of curiosity, passion, flexibility, self-motivation, and psychological flexibility;

• A new portfolio of roles: collaborators and orchestrators, synthesizers, explainers, leveragers, adapters, “green” people, passionate personalizers, and localizers;

• Individuals will need to demonstrate their capacity to perpetually incorporate new knowledge - disciplinary knowledge will be relatively less important; and

• The capacity to work in highly diverse, transnational teams and leverage personal knowledge networks will be paramount.

Increasing international experiences are a key ingredient in this model; both institutions and individuals are responding aggressively to New Age variations on study abroad, joint degree, collaborative research, and internship programs that span international borders.

Double Down on the Liberal Arts and Sciences – But With a Difference. What does this mean for liberal arts and sciences graduates? And for institutions whose “brand” depends on the public perception that liberal arts and sciences degrees and experiences provide an appealing value proposition - onew that is worth a healthy price premium, in many cases? Several thoughts emerge:

• Liberal arts and sciences majors should be highly reflective about aligning their broadly articulated competences with the Friedman/Oblinger view of the proven capacities necessary for what the Chinese call “golden future jobs?” They should also be ,aggressive in being able to demonstrate their competences and present a contextualized, confident, rich portfolio of achievement and ability.

• Institutions depending on the liberal arts and sciences for their brand should continuously question whether their programs and experiences are as developmentally rigorous and broad as they claim. Do they includes math and sciences as well as the liberal arts? Do they include capastone and synthesizing experiences? They should also affirm and assure that they provide the sorts of developmental experiences that prepare graduates to thrive in a Flat, Global, Shared Sociability, and Exponential Education World.

So institutions that believe in the strong value proposition of their liberal arts and sciences offerings should “double down” on their bet – advocating the increasing potential value of a broad liberal arts and sciences preparation. But with a critical difference: Affirming a strong emphasis on the Friedman/Oblinger-type competences that will be critical to thriving in the post-recession, global economy. And assuring that the reality of the experiences measure up to the promise.

Frankly, proponents of the liberal arts and sciences cannot be complacent over the next few years, even if they have a compelling story to tell. As students and parents rethink the value propositions of prospective institutions and career tracks, they will want to see proof that a well grounded liberal arts and sciences degree and accompanying experiences actually prepares graduates for “golden future” careers. And that employers recognize this value proposition.

In future blogs we shall describe successful institutional efforts to promote a globalized liberal arts and sciences education.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Raising the Stakes and Broadening the Scope of Analytics (2)

Yesterday’s blog suggested that the current financial crisis had “raised the stakes and broadened the scope of analytics” that are needed to help address the following challenges:

Reducing the Total Cost of Learning. Increasing the size of Pell Grants and assuring that learners and their families have access to financial aid are necessary actions to improve affordability. However, these measures are not sufficient to solve the affordability problem. The rate of increase in tuition is likely to continue to exceed the rate of inflation for many, if not most institutions. This especially true in the short term, given the gaping holes in institutional budgets left by funding cutbacks for state institutions and endowment income reductions for the privates.

Individual institutions can reduce the total cost of achieving targeted certificates or degrees by attaining greater efficiency and effectiveness in degree planning, course availability, and use of online learning options to fill gaps and enable students to finish certificates and degrees on time. Many are doing this now; they will need to redouble their efforts.

Some families will require even more: accelerated degree completion through compressed schedules or high school/college programs such as early college high school, dual/concurrent enrollment, and/or bridge/pathways programs. The programs bridging into high school need to be part of a fundamental improvement of the middle school and high school experience and the readiness of their graduates for college-level work. Over time many families will get even more serious about such programs, given the current state of family finances. Institutions that are able to offer baccalaureate degrees in three years (or even two years past high school for exceptional students) may achieve a competitive advantage with particular groups of students. Analytics will play a key role in conveying the comparative costs of education and the capacity of students to achieve accelerated completion.

Increasing the Number of College Graduates and Enhancing America’s Competitiveness and Re-establishing Financial Sustainability for Institutions. President Obama has called for the US regaining its international lead in educational rates by 2020; this includes generating five million more community college graduates by 2020. This is a huge proposed leap, coming at a time when government finances are overextended; moreover, institutional finances are depleted and their energies diverted into short-term coping strategies. Even community colleges, the recipients of the Presidents attention and financial largesse, are finding themselves flooded with students, yet many face short-term cuts as a result of the financial woes of their states/locales.

What Is Financial Sustainability for Colleges and Universities? The patterns and cadences of finance are dramatically different for public and private institutions. For private institutions, sustainability means continuing to offer a perceived value proposition that justifies their tuition level (recognizing discounting) in comparison with other providers (public institutions, for-profits). For public institutions, sustainability means both competing with other providers on value and developing the capacity to weave together a mercurial combination of tuition, public funding, and other revenues, always dealing with the roller coaster ride of unpredictable public finance during booms and recessions.

In order to lift out of recession and achieve the gains in degree output advocated by President Obama, a new vision for financial sustainability will need to be articulated – and provided for. Analytics will be key in articulating, describing and monitoring the state of institutional finance and supporting the capacity of the public comparatively to evaluate institutional value propositions

In a July 16 column in The Boston Globe, Joseph Aoun, President of Northeastern University, asked the penetrating question: “Is higher education ready to accommodate – and graduate – millions of additional students?” His answer: “No, not without diversification of the current model, including growth in for-profits, no-frills universities, flexible degree programs, and more online offerings.”

Creating Greater Flexibility, More Choices, New Mechanisms, Structures, and Networks for Perpetual Learning and Competence Building. The new vision for institutional sustainability must include a substantial commitment to cheaper, better options. This will include greater flexibility, more choices, “no frills” options and differential fees to reflect these choices, and the capacity of relatively low-cost public institutions to accommodate the bulk of the possible tidal wave of new learners. Traditional colleges and universities that wish to participate in this learning bulge will need to develop their capacity for flexibility and reinvention.

Moreover, new approaches are required to deconstruct existing learning experiences, courses and degrees so that entry-level learners can acquire sufficient learning to enter the workforce even more rapidly, then complete their learning while employed. For such learners, completing a course or two, gaining a job based on that learning, then completing an associates degree while employed is today's model. New, green career pathways for such entry-level workers need to emerge from current stimulus funding.

Finally, new, community-of-practice-based learning models are emerging to support networks meeting the perpetual learning and competence building needs of adults who are combining work and learning, every day. These networks are deploying the social networking, collaboration, and analytic tools of Web 2.0. The vast majority of continuous learning experiences in the economy could benefit from these sorts of ongoing networks. These competence networks will involve traditional colleges and universities, hospitals, business enterprises, and other community organizations. But the culture of these networks will differ dramatically from traditional institutions. They will be fast, fluid, flexible, and affordable. They will require different sorts of performance metrics and descriptive dashboards.Over time, such network communities will dominate the market for adult learning. My colleague Paul Lefrere and I have coined the term Competence 2.0 ® to describe this phenomenon, which we will explore at greater lengths in future blogs.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Raising the Stakes and Broadening the Scope of Analytics (1)

As we’ve noted in previous blogs, it’s no secret that improving student retention and success is the “killer app” for action analytics on campus. Investments in analytics that improve admissions yield, student progress from freshmen to sophomore year, and degree completion statistics provide a health ROI/VOI for institutions. They also improve institutional scores on comparative statistics that are used by evaluators in calculating institutional rankings and by prospective students in evaluating colleges and universities.

When these tools and practices are applied to “at risk” or “underserved” students to improve student success, they also improve both institutional and national statistics on student success. This contributes toward the elimination of the “achievement gap” for underserved students that is a major target of national organizations such as the NAtional Association of System Heads (NASH).

Not surprisingly, the most advanced and mature examples of analytics on campuses today reflect these priorities: 1) predictive modeling to shape institutional policies and practices; 2) strategic enrollment management supported by predictive modeling and admissions pipeline management; 3) real-time analysis of current student success and engagement, using dynamic viewing, drill down, and alerts/interventions for at-risk students; and 4) active use of dashboards dealing with student progress and success – in the context of other important institutional variables.

Many of the best practices in this first generation of academic/action analytics can be reviewed in the two articles we cited in earlier blogs, Action Analytics and Academic Analytics (

The economic recession has been a perfect storm, devastating both institutional finances and student/family finances. This has created several immediate imperatives for institutional enrollment management officers: 1) finding adequate financial aid support for students in the new context, 2) creatively packaging financial aid and coaxing nervous students, 3) engaging admitted and continuing students to maximize the likelihood they will enroll in the fall, and 4) fretting about the myriad of the things that can go wrong for students enrolled during a diminished resource environment – institutional and family- and finding solutions.

This is heavy lifting. This week’s edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education contains examples from Lawrence University, Clark University, Michigan Technological University, Alleghany University and others, where inventive administrators have addressed one particular challenge, “summer melt” - the percentage of students who have paid deposits who do not show up for enrollment.

Looking beyond current challenges, the economic perfect storm has brought into sharper focus some longer-term imperatives – and opportunities. These will require a broader range of analytics than the first gen, “killer app” analytics focusing on student success. Many of them involve “raising the stakes” by exploring fundamental changes in the elements of higher education’s/institutional value propositions. These elements include: 1) outcomes, 2) the experiences through which they are achieved, and 3) cost/price.

In tomorrow’s blog, we will explore several of these broader issues and the analytics needed to support them:

• Reducing the total cost of learning for learners and their families;

• Increasing the number of college graduates and enhancing America’s competitiveness;

• Re-establishing financial sustainability for institutions; and

• Creating new mechanisms, structures, and networks for perpetual learning and competence building.

Monday, July 27, 2009

How About Lengthening and Intensifying the School Year – K-20?

Sometimes you have to rely on an international magazine to give us a fresh perspective on ourselves. In the June 13, 2009 issue of The Economist, the columnist “Lexington” described an ironic situation: Americans, who as adults work longer hours than peers in almost all other developed countries, require less work from our children than any other developed country. Describing “The Underworked American,” Lexington points out that American children have one of the shortest school years anywhere, 180 days compared to 195 days for children in OECD countries. Over 12 years, a 15-day deficit translates into 180 days of school, equivalent to a full school year. And the story gets even worse.

Moreover, we have one of the shortest school days, six and a half hours, adding up to 32 hours a week. This compares to 53 hours a week in Denmark and 60 in Sweden. We also divide up our school time in peculiar ways. The long summer holiday is particularly detrimental – students typically forget a month’s worth of learning in most subjects, and three times as much in math. Our relatively non-competitive K-12performance is reflected in the high levels of remediation required by students entering public universities.

Lengthening the school year for American K-12 will not be easy, because of the highly decentralized nature of American K-12 education (not to mention the powerful lobbying efforts of teachers unions and summer camp advocates and the desire of some wistful American parents to give their children a modern variant of the “Huckleberry Finn” summer). But 1,000 out of the country’s 90.000 schools have abandoned the traditional school day. These include charter schools in the Knowledge Is Power Programme (KIPP) whose classes begin at 7:30 and end at 5:00 pm and include some classes on Saturday and teach for several weeks in the summer. These students regularly score better than their peers – largely a tribute to spending 60% more time in class.

Thinkers as disparate as President Obama and Newt Gingrich have encouraged educators to take action to address these problems.

Why not lengthen the school year, not just K-12, but K-20? Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and other administrative leaders have called for universities to take serious looks at making even greater use of intensive year-round operations. Many postsecondary students already do so, enrolling in courses in community colleges and hometown universities when they are home for summer vacation from their “regular” university. Many students in community colleges and metropolitan universities are already working part-time during the regular school year and carry their work and learning efforts through the summer.

Comparative analytics have been critical in describing the problems and competitive shortcomings of American education, K-20. They will also be critical in framing, modeling, and executing efforts to lengthen and intensify the school year, K-20.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Will This Economic Downturn Spur Innovations?

In screening key resources from the business literature – Business Week, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, McKinsey Quarterly, and others - we have distilled a summary view of how leaders in other industries are responding to lifting out of the current recession.

Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric, said of the current recession, “This is not a cycle. It’s a reset.” A great many business leaders – perhaps a majority - share his view that new business practices will emerge from this recession in the context of the highly competitive global economy. Many companies have shed workers, slimmed down, and are rethinking their lines of business.

John Seely Brown and John Hagel III have coined the term “The Big Shift” to describe the phenomenon facing industries, today. Quite literally, every industry from financial services to real estate to food and agriculture to manufacturing to health care to information technology – even education – is facing a reshaping of its principles, practices, and products. Shrewd leaders know that knee-jerk cutback reactions can do more harm than good. The risk of not investing during recession is often higher than the risks associated with shrewd investments.

Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovators Prescription, observes that downturns are often good times for innovations. They force innovators not to waste money and to think about what they are doing. Many innovations start out in the wrong direction and need to be realigned. Downturns force enterprises to push innovations out into the marketplace and make rapid adjustments and refinements to produce success.

Downturns also force consumers to be more frugal and cost conscious. In the process, they rethink the basic value propositions they are seeking. Value consists of three basic elements: 1) outcomes, 2) the experiences through which those outcomes are achieved, and 3) cost/price. When consumers reappraise value, all three elements get rethought.

Christensen’s specialty is disruptive innovations – ones that change the dynamics of industries. He observes that disruptive innovations have three elements: 1) a technological enabler, 2) a business model innovation and 3) a new commercial ecosystem. In higher education, the most recent disruptive innovation has been for-profit education, whose providers have used technology to create competence-focused, consistent learning experiences, tailored to the needs of adult learners. For this achievement, learners have been willing to pay a premium price.

The next generation of disruptive innovations in education will follow several courses. First, providers will extend the for-profit business model, but in a way that reduces cost/price. Lamar University has partnered with a for-profit provider to field an on-line, masters in education program for half the price of public university competitors. It now dominates that niche market. This neatly demonstrates the aphorism, “Cash cows are never fatter than the sunny afternoon before the moonless night when they are rustled by new competitors – or old competitors with new tricks.”

Second, Web 2.0 technology will be used to change the patterns and cadences of ongoing learning, introducing a community of practice model to learning and perpetual competence building. Such communities of practice will grow in business enterprises, industries, and communities, often involving a broad range of partners, including colleges and universities. But the dynamics and business models will be very different and these communities will deconstruct learning, competence demonstration, and certification. Much of the learning will be free, using open educational resources.

Many colleges and universities are counter-cyclical, so their enrollments typically grow during business downturns. But the affordability crisis for learners and families is so great that widespread rethinking of value propositions is underway. As learners and their families begin to reconsider outcomes, experiences, and cost, innovations that provide fresh value propositions will receive favorable consideration. Institutional leaders should take note.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Perspectives on the Funding Crisis from the SCUP Conference (2)

So what analytics applications that might improve planning, sustainability, and lifting out of recession were on display at the meeting of the Society for College and University Planning? Two are worth mentioning.

Nuventive’s TracDat product is an assessment management tool that is sufficiently powerful/adaptable and properly architected so that it can be used to support assessment, accreditation, strategic planning, sustainability planning, and other specialized planning functions. Other assessment management products do an adequate job of portraying and managing assessment, but do not have the basic architecture to broadly fulfill the alignment function as achieved by TracDat.

TracDat enables users to align planning and execution efforts both vertically and horizontally. Vertical alignment means aligning strategies, goals, actions, measures, and responsibilities for actions at the institutional, college, department and program levels. Horizontal alignment means having the capacity to align regional and programmatic accredition efforts, sustainability plans, and capital plans with institutional strategy, goals, and actions. TracDat enables users to keep track of these alignments, manage responsibilities, actions, and corrective actions, all electronically.

Why is alignment so important to institutional efforts to establish financial sustainability? Experience has shown that it is profoundly challenging to stitch together the various elements of institutional strategy and to redirect existing initiatives as will be necessary to lift out of recession. TracDat dissolves the boundaries between planning “silos” and process “silos.” It enables measures and responsibilities to be assigned to the various aligned actions. These functions are discussed in A Guide to Planning for Change, published by the Society for College and University Planning.

In Portland, Nuventive premiered a demonstration of TracDat used to portray and manage an institution’s Sustainability Plan, fully aligned with institutional strategies.

Another part of the analytics puzzle is addressed by iStrategy Solutions – providing real-time action analytics for the masses. iStrategy is a prepackaged analytics application that combines: 1) data mapping to the data files of major ERP providers such as PeopleSoft/Oracle, Sungard, and Datatel; 2) Extract, Transfer and Load (ETL), 3) Data Warehous; 4) Online Analytic Processing (OLAP), 5) Business Intelligence (BI), and 6) presentation in a user friendly wrapper. iStrategy uses Microsoft tools to drive down the cost of extending analytics to a large set of end users. As a prepackaged solution, iStrategy can be deployed on campus quickly, presenting the institution’s own data in a few days, followed by a period of definitional refinement.

iStrategy addresses the analytical need to provide decision makers with the capacity to conduct dynamic analysis of data resources to support management retention and student success, productivity, personnel and talent management, and succession planning, all in real time. Using iStrategy, a student services worker can dynamically select the OLAP variables for an analysis, run the analysis, change the variables again to get just the right view, examine particular groups/cells of students in the analysis, then drill down to see the individuals in the group. This drill down can then stimulate an alert or intervention.

iStrategy is also easily extensible. Over time data from other “buckets” (so-called “shadow systems,” other third party administrative applications, academic information systems, assessment, external data) can be drawn into the data warehouse.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Perspectives on the Funding Crisis from the SCUP Conference (1)

The 44th Annual Conference of the Society for College and University Planning was overshadowed by a great, gray cloud: the impact of the current recession and college and university funding crisis. Titles of some of the sessions convey this spirit:

• “Dear President Obama – Looking Beyond the Crisis to a New Future for Education in America,” Jonathon Kozol, Plenary Speaker;

• “The College Funding Crisis: Five Ways Planning Can Help,” Philip J. Parsons, Sasaki Architects;

• “Are We Wasting a Perfectly Good Crisis?” George Pernsteiner, Chancellor. Oregon University System; and

• “Maintaining Sustainability Initiatives in Tough Economic Times,” William J. Flynn, Managing Director, Emeritus, National Council for Continuing Education and Training, et al.

Several prevailing perspectives seemed to emanate from the strategic planners, facilities planners, architects, and academic leaders at this conference:

• The building boom in American higher education has surely slowed down, but compared to residential and commercial real estate, higher education construction still is relatively healthy; given the lead time for capital planning, many projects are still “in the pipeline;” but thoughtful leaders are concerned about future prospects;

• The continuing and cascading cycles of budget cuts, rescissions, travel freezes, furloughs, and other financial adjustments have thrown most institutional plans into a cocked hat; financial exigency, short-term fixes and just plain “muddling through” have trumped institutional plans, innovation-driven change and transformative strategy;

• Most leaders have reached some level of comprehension of the fact that the decline in America’s relative standing regarding education and skills outcomes must be reversed, and that our education gaps between different population groups is simultaneously a betrayal of our values and a drain on our competitive position;

• Many leaders can articulate a vision of the desirability of reestablishing financial sustainability, post-recession; they even can describe individual puzzle pieces that may help; but they no conception of the sorts of comprehensive strategies for realigning existing and new initiatives to achieve financial sustainability and restore our competitive standing;

• The next several years are expected to present even tougher decisions as leaders grapple with the challenge of moving beyond the current imperative of “muddling through” and the need to launch the combinations of operational efficiency, innovation, and transformative change necessary to lift us to a higher plane of achioevement.

SCUP is one of the national leaders in sustainability, a theme that pervaded many sessions and hallway conversations at the conference. Most manifestations of sustainability deal with “green” features involving energy, water, and atmosphere. Another important "green" facet of sustainability – financial sustainability – will feature prominently in the continuing conversations in the halls of SCUP conferences and workshops.

Tomorrow’s blog will provide more feedback on analytics, lifting out of recession, and financial sustainability at SCUP.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rediscovering Financial Sustainability: Innovate or Decline

In our blogs on “Will Higher Education Be the Next Bubble to Burst?” we introduced the notion that two forces had collided: 1) the continually rising relative cost of American higher education and 2) the diminishing capacity of learners and families to afford higher education.

In this blog we shall further explore ways in which elements of US higher education’s funding models and performance are unsustainable. What are the various facets of unsustainability?

• McKinsey reports that the persistent gap in academic achievement between children in the US and their counterparts in other countries deprives the US economy of as much as $2.3 trillion dollars in economic output in 2008. This is a tremendous drain on our international competitiveness and cannot be sustained in the face of global competition.

• The high attrition, failure, and remediation rates in American high schools and colleges are wasteful and unsustainable; in many American community colleges, even those being fed by “high performing” school districts, it is not uncommon to see rates of students requiring remediation in the range of 60-75%. This wasteful “redoing” of what should have been achieved in high school is unsustainable.

• Retention rates at American colleges and universities vary dramatically, but are very high in many institutions, representing a waste of effort and resources; institutions with serious retention improvement programs have demonstrated these rates can be improved substantially.

• Public universities have gone through a roller coaster ride of budgetary ups and downs, achieving new funding during good economic times, then experiencing mid-year rescissions, cutbacks, and retrenchment during periodic recessions. This repeating cycle has completely disrupted consistent funding and the nurturing of innovations and initiatives that might change institutional practices and performance. These cycles also have diminished enterprise capacity and sapped the energy of institutional leadership. This model is unsustainable.

• Public financing of higher education continues to decline as a percentage of state budgets; public institutions’ support from state appropriations as a percentage of their total budgets has declined to 10-15% for many flagship universities. Many of these institutions have accepted lesser funding to achieve greater flexibility in setting tuitions and other measures that would establish for them greater sustainability and predictability in budgets.

• On an enterprise level, higher education and health care institutions have used technology in ways that often raise the overall cost of service. Even successful innovations, like the efforts of Carol Twigg at the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) to reinvent course practices using technology, resulting in dramatically reduced cost and enhanced performance, have not been replicated at scale across institutions. This sort of failure to elevate innovate to the enterprise level is unsustainable.

Financial sustainability requires innovations that improve and eliminate exist disparities in access, affordability, and success. This will requires significant changes in practices across PK-20.

Lifting out of recession is fundamentally about two things: 1) building competitiveness for the post-recession world and economy and 2)rediscovering and maintaining financial sustainability. These two factors are intertwined.

Tomorrow's blog will present insights gleaned at the Annual Conference of the Society for College an d University Planning.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Is Higher Education the Next Bubble to Burst? Yes and No (2)

Bubbles burst when people will not or cannot continue to pay the irrationally, artificially overvalued price for prized assets. For example, when a real estate bubble bursts, buyers recalibrate their assessments of value and the value of residential and commercial real estate falls until a new market equilibrium is reached. In a field like education, readjustment will occur when new options appear that present different price points or value propositions that appeal to underserved or dissatisfied consumers. Over time, these new options both provide fresh choices and spur modifications in existing practices.

What are some of the options that will recalibrate value propositions and price points in higher education?

Reduced Tuition Through Technology-Enabled Reinvention. Most institutions’ on-line offerings are actually more expensive than traditional offerings. But Lamar University has shaken up the marketplace in Texas for online graduate learning by collaborating with Higher Ed Holdings to offer an online masters program at a dramatically cheaper price point. The secret: using technology to change patterns of interaction and turning faculty into mentors and managers of the online learning space rather than content experts. Other disruptive, less-expensive offerings of various kinds are gestating in business development from Baltimore to Bangalore to Beijing. More about this in future blog “Disruptive Innovations in Higher Education.)

• Reduced Total/Net Cost of Learning/Three-Year Baccalaureate Degrees/One-year Associate Degrees. Tuitions at state universities are likely to continue to grow at rates greater than the CPI – unless states control it. Even so, the best way to address affordability is through reducing the total/net cost of degrees. Private institutions like Hartwick University have announced three-year options by compressing the university experience and making it year round. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg has suggested private universities consider full year-round operations. But the most promising initiatives are bridging and pathways programs between K-12, community colleges and four-year institutions. For example, the nursing pathways program involving Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University assures that if students get on the prescribed pathway in ninth grade take prescribed courses successfully, they will achieve a baccalaureate in nursing within three years after graduation from high school (many such students currently require four to six years to achieve that end). There are numerous variations on such programs across the country.

Virtually every state has serious K-16 reinvention programs underway. The challenge is not just to push college-level work in high school, but to engage all high school students in more serious, immersive learning and competence building experiences. And to think of careers earlier. This acceleration and immersion should include vocational offerings and tracks. The real challenge is to move these programs from protoypes and experiments into full-blown reinvention of the high school experience, at scale. This will be discussed in an upcoming blog “The Underworked American Student.” Stay tuned.

• Deconstruction of Degrees into Certificates and Competences. For many entry-level workers, taking even two years to complete an associate degree before achieving employment is too long. The ideal solution is for learners to be exposed in high school to immersive learning and vocational/technical learning experiences (which may be achieved on community college campuses since we’re squeezed most voc tech out of high school) that prepare them for entry-level jobs, which they can take immediately after graduation. Then they complete other certificates and/or associate degrees while employed, a variation on the traditional apprenticeship model.

A corollary to this principle is to position entry-level job experiences to be the gateway to genuine career tracks. For example, substantial sums of stimulus money are being invested in weatherization and weatherization training, yet many of these workers will find their weatherization jobs to be dead ends. Extensive efforts are underway across the country to create green careers tracks, supported by online learning resources, that will enable entry-level workers to shape green careers, over time, and rise from installers to crew chiefs to auditors to managers and into technical elements of HVAC, solar, wind, and other renewables. These will require, different, more flexible approaches to community colege offerings. More to come about this in a future blog on “Deconstructing Green Career Tracks.”

• Community of Practice-Based Approaches to Competence. The traditional associates/bachelors/masters/doctorate degree progression is appropriate for individuals seeking traditional faculty careers. But the requirement of marketplace demands different learning and career paths. Suppose we used the tools of Web 2.0 (social networking, collaboration, knowledge repositories, and analytics) to create communities of practice into which student entered as undergraduates then continued through their careers? More about this alternative in the upcoming blog, “Perpetual Career Development Through Competence 2.0”

• Reduce Waste Through Improving Student Success.
Improving graduation rates in high school and college is critical to reducing the total cost of leaning for the nation. The cost of our current culture of failure is huge and will be discussed in a forthcoming blog, “Destroying the Culture of Failure

Where does analytics come into this formulation? It is the element that enables us to measure performance and costs. Technology also the mechanism for deconstructing and reinventing processes and practices, then for measuring the impacts of processes on outcomes. Technology also enables citizens to engage in learning anytime, anyplace, anyhow, fusing work, learning, and other life experiences.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is Higher Education the Next Bubble to Burst? (1)

One of the basic premises of “Analytics and Lifting Out of Recession” is that higher education needs to reimagine and transform itself to thrive in the post recession economy. This transformation needs to include a reduction in the net cost of achieving degrees and certificates.

Reducing the net cost of learning is critical for two reasons. First, the capacity of students and parents to afford higher education has taken a serious hit, and will likely continue to deteriorate even after the economy improves. Financial aid has become problematic. Second, the cost of higher education has continued to rise faster than inflation and in comparison to other services and products. For many students and families, the higher education experience they aspired to and planned on may be beyond their reach.

In an article in The Chronicle of Education, “Will Higher Education Be the Next Bubble to Burst?” Joseph Marr Cronin and Howard E. Burton suggest that higher education may be “an asset that is irrationally and artificially overvalued and cannot be sustained.” This is the definition of a bubble, like the and housing bubbles. This article first appeared in the May 22, 2009 issue of TCHE and was reprinted on July 1, 2009.

Connecting the dots of evidence suggests they may have a point.

• Over the past 25 years, average college tuition and fees have risen by 440 percent – more than four times the rate of inflation and almost twice the rate of medical care (the rising cost of which is almost universally regarded as unsustainable).

• The price of education at elite institutions has reached $50,000 a year and the cost of public higher education has grown substantially; the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance reports that the percentage of students who were fully qualified to attend public four-year higher education and actually did so declined between 1976 and 2004 – and that was before the impact of today’s recession.

• Admissions officers have reported the recession is stimulating migration of many students from private to public institutions, from four year publics to community colleges, and to for-profits that offer efficiency, consistency of outcomes, and linkages to employment.

• William Baumol, in his classic article, “Why College Costs so Much?” in Planning for Higher Education in 1995, suggested that both education and health care, the “laying on of hands” professions, had not utilized technology-enabled reinvention to reduce their relative costs – unlike other goods and services in the economy. Unless this changed, Baumol projected education and health care would together account for over 50% of GDP in 2040 – an outcome that obviously was and is unsupportable. Baumol’s formulations did not receive the attention they deserved over the past 14 years.

• In Transforming Higher Education: A Vision for Learning in the 21st Century, also published in 1995 Michael Dolence and Donald Norris stipulated that higher education across the globe would need to realign, redesign, redefine, and reengineer its practices in order to educate the tidal wave of students clammering for learning. The current economic realities have placed exclamation points on this message.

Future conditions will exacerbate the competition for students – demographic decline in the Northeast and Midwest, disruptive competition from for-profit institutions and other new competitors, and fresh approaches to developing, demonstrating, and certifying competences. The processes of realigning, resigning, redefining, and reengineering higher education have shifted into a higher gear.

In tomorrow’s blog, we will discuss existing and projected innovations and transformations that are reducing the cost of tuition, the total cost of education, and the fundamental mechanisms for perpetually acquiring competences.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What National Organizations Are Doing ? (2)

Guest Blogger: Dr. Linda Baer, Senior Vice Chancellor fore Academic and Student Affairs, Minnesota State College and Universities

The National Association of System Heads developed a potential measurement framework for participation and success rates for underrepresented and all students transitioning from high school preparation to college success. The value here is that the association has acknowledged the multiple factors and milestones critical to support and maximize student success. The following chart depicts the pathway, goals and indicators in a systematic manner based on key data elements including success in entry level math and English, successful completion of remediation, year to year retention and early accumulation of credits.

Each of the examples cited; enrollment management, Lumina’s Achieving the Dream, or the National Association of System Heads and Education Trust Access to Success all have common elements that have been found to make the biggest difference in student success, retention and graduation. The research has been clear for some time about what colleges and universities need to do to be more effective in serving students. The availability of data has supported the proof of best practices that work. Bringing the predictive modeling capacities within the analytics framework can maximize the research and data in a more customized and personalized manner for each student.

URM = underrepresented minority populations.

Check out the reference to NASH at

Friday, July 17, 2009

What Are National Organizations Doing to Promote Analytics? (1)

Guest Blogger – Dr. Linda Baer, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU).

While greater proportions of the U.S population are being educated, overall college/university graduation rates have remained relatively unchanged for decades. We know more about learning than ever before, yet all the research has not brought about wholesale changes in advising, educating and servicing students. Success rates for underserved populations have lagged. This has resulted in major and continuing efforts to analyze the “achievement gap.” Data banks and warehouses have reached a progressively higher levels of sophistication and technology solutions have been developed that bring together the massive data sets with statistical techniques and predictive modeling. The result is that higher education can now better customize and thereby maximize student success.

Campus Enrollment Management

Examples of campus use for enrollment management have been well documented. The use of data to improve likelihood of admissions is the next step. Examples of predictive modeling and student retention uses fundamental data as GPA, English course and grade, race, math course grade, total hours earned and ACT score to determine best practices in retention programming. Campuses have developed early alert systems to further enhance student retention. These include placement in developmental course, income below the federal poverty level, full-time work, and undecided major as measures to monitor. Another example is the use of course management systems to identify and monitor students at risk so that interventions can be in place early to enhance retention and success. See Academic Analytics: A New Tool for a New Era in EDUCAUSE Review.

Colleges and universities have implemented analytics to improve enrollment management particularly in relation to recruitment and admissions. Colleges and universities use test scores, GPA, class rank and many qualitative measures when making decisions about admission to campuses. The predictive nature of these measures is a part of many enrollment management strategies.

ACT maintains a high level of reliability around the ACT scores, student course taking in high school and college success. ACT has established a predictive modeling template that determines enrollment probabilities and indexes as well. The indexes provide a probability that a student will show a specific enrollment behavior. These include:

• The mobility index which indicates the likelihood that a student will enroll at an out-of-state institution.

• The institution type index predicts the likelihood that a student will enroll at a private institution.

• The selectivity index predicts the selectivity of the institution at which the student is likely to enroll.

Variables included that are most predictive in each model include ACT Composite, High School, GPA, Years of foreign Language, program of study in HS, years of math coursework, and highest degree expected. See ACT website.

National Attention on Community Colleges

The Lumina Foundation initiated the “Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count” which is a multiyear program that focuses on helping more community college students succeed by earning degrees, certificates, and transfer to other institutions.

The key to the initiative is to use data to drive change. In the Achieving the Dream model, every decision made at a college – from setting educational strategies and allocating resources to scheduling classes and organizing student services – is grounded in data about student outcomes. Central to this work is setting measurable goals that consider outcomes of all students; and making lasting, institutional change to achieve them. Because there are disparities in student outcomes at community colleges, all work is disaggregated by race, age and other demographic characteristics—to better understand the performance gap.

Key strategies for improving the chances of college completion include:

• Successful completion of developmental education.

• Instructional techniques, such as collaborative learning, paired classes and learning communities.

• Student success courses which teach critical skills such as time management and study skills.

• Advising services to help students set and meet goals.

• Improving outcomes for gatekeeper courses such as introductory college level algebra and English.

For more on Achieving the Dream, see

Information about these elements have been available but not in a coordinated manner and not readily available to multiple users. With faculty and advisors gaining access to the information often in a dashboard format, it is possible to better understand student success and risk. Faculty can identify programs that can affect student completion and persistence.

Campus leaders believe that they will soon be able to match technologies with data resources to bring about the capacity to predict which students need interventions in a timely manner to provide the programs to help students succeed. This will allow colleges to follow the progress of students including need for developmental work, tutoring, and progress in courses, withdrawal patterns and completion rates. Currently these programs basically track students. The next step is to build proactive intervention tools customizable to each student.

National System Heads Call for Halving the Achievement Gap

The National Association of System Heads has developed an initiative called Access to Success. The Lumina Foundation and the Education Trust have joined with the National Association of System Heads to work to cut in half the achievement gap between majority and minority students. A call to focus on the need to reclaim America’s global competitiveness motivated system heads to launch a new national initiative to increase the number of college-educated Americans and to ensure that graduates include far more young people from low-income and minority families. These educational system leaders are aggressively pursuing improvements in student outcomes by closing the achievement gap by at least half in both college-going and degree completion that separate low income and minority students from others.

Several areas have received immediate cross system attention including:

• Increasing student success in remedial and other large enrollment, introductory courses

• Managing costs and investing in student success

• Improving preparation among entering students; and,

• Maximizing financial aid for low-income students

Tomorrow: The Pathway Chart of the National Association of System Heads (NASH)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What Is the Value on Investment from Analytics? (Continued)

Just as I finished yesterday’s blog on VOI in Analytics, I came upon an interview in the Greentree Gazette with Tim Culver, Vice President of Consulting Services with Noel-Levitz, the firm that over the years has made a major contribution to defining the practice of strategic enrollment management (SEM) in higher education.

The interview focused on the major interests of Noel-Levitz’s community college clients and contains some useful examples of current best practice.

In response to the interviewer’s questions, Mr. Culver suggested that N-L’s community college clients were currently dealing with a variety of challenges that were utilizing analytics:

• Tracking student intent and outcome – are they seeking degree, transfer, or both?

• Understanding the student’s condition - is the student enrolled at multiple institutions concurrently?

• Using predictive modeling to improve fall-to-spring return rates, utilizing data-informed interventions,

• Increasing the success of online students by demonstrating and measuring readiness characteristics like commitment to time on task, critical thinking skills, and solid writing skills

Mr. Culver observed that the killer app for retention may lie in the retention modules that are now being made available by many of the ERP vendors. These include early alerts and modern communication modules so faculty, advisors, and counselors can track students and intervene easily.

Such modules are important steps. The establishment of analytic best practices in particular functional areas like strategic enrollment management or strategic planning or institutional advancement, each tied to a part of the ERP stack or a specialty shadow system, has been an evolutionary stage in the growth of analytics in higher education.

But the new gold standard is to loosen up the ERP stacks and create loosely coupled analytics that extract and combine data from the full range of data sources. These include non-ERP sources such as learning management systems, library systems, assessment shadow systems, continuing education management systems, and external data such as peer institution data, high school data sets, and cross-enrollment data with other institutions. The retention and student success killer app will be extended by these new wrinkles.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What Is the Value on Investment from Analytics?

In times of financial exigency, institutional leaders need to scrutinize and justify all major expenditures or investments. Fortunately, making genuine commitments to deploy and leverage the investment in analytics in particular ways can be shown to generate substantial return on investment.

Return on investment (ROI) measures the tangible, measureable outcomes that result from an investment such as technology. Productivity gains, reduced or deferred costs, reduction in staff resources applied to particular processes, and increased revenues are examples of tangible returns that can result from technology investments.

An even more expansive concept is value on investment (VOI), which measures both the tangible and intangible outcomes that result from leveraging technology. Our experience has shown that most of the tangible outcomes come from productivity gains. On the other hand intangible value comes from a combination of new collaborations and innovations that change the dynamics of the institution and its relations with students. This can lead to enhanced approaches to strategic enrollment management, reorganization and restructuring of administrative units, and reshaping job responsibilities. These can enhance the institution’s competitive position and capacity to attract and retain students. Such intangible value often results in tangible outcomes, like increased enrollment and revenues, within a period of time.

We first deployed the concept of value on investment at Eastern Michigan University, in 2002-2004. We measured the impact of utilizing an aggressive combination of strategic planning, the implementation of an integrated ERP suite, leveraging the ERP system to reinvent processes and practices, and enhancing data governance/stewardship. In particular, we demonstrated the new ERP and related process reinvention generated millions of dollars in annual savings and very favorable ROI and VOI. The basic approach is described in a white paper for the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) Value on Investment in Higher Education (

In considering today’s higher education’s analytics environmnet, the killer app for analytics is retention and student success. By making an analytics-driven improvement of a few percentage points in freshmen-to-sophomore success rates and four- and six-year graduation rates, institutions can justify significant investments in analytics and in retention-support services.

Virtually every institution has some sort of serious program to improve student retention and success. While all use information to measure outcomes, many do not use a full range of reporting and intervention tools to actually scrutinize and reinvent the processes and practices that affect success. On the other hand, leading institutions are using analytics in predictive modeling and policy making to improve student performance. The excellent article in EDUCAUSE Review on “Academic Analytics” by Campbell, DeBlois and Oblinger offers many examples, including Baylor University, Purdue, the University of Alabama, Sinclair Community College, and Northern Arizona University of institutions using predictive analytics in recruitment and shaping policy.

Some leading-edge institutions have taken an even more aggressive approach to analytics. Cuyahoga Community College has deployed a sophisticated analytics application, which they call institutional intelligence, to provide standard reports, ad hoc reports, query, interventions, and statistical analysis capabilities that can be used to improve the success of at-risk students. CCC has used a home-grown solution, built with the help of data warehouse consultants ans using Microsoft Sharepoint/PerformancePoint to provide low-cost “analytics for the masses.”

In a similar vein, institutions like University of Maryland Baltimore County and University of Maryland Eastern Shore have deployed iStrategy’s pre-packaged analytics application to enable dynamic viewing of at-risk students and actively drill down and intervene when conditions warrant. Such applications enable institutions to deploy analytics to measure student retention and success, predict which students are likely to be successful, shape policy to deal effectively wiuth at-risk students, and actively monitor and intyervene with students whose performance or level of engagement suggests they are at risk.

Put simply, most institutions use improving retention and student success as their analytics killer app. Such applications can deliver strong value propositions. In future blogs we will offer more examples of institutions taking an aggressive approach to retention. We will also offer broader examples of how other types of analytics can yield Value on Investment.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How Can An Institution Get Started on Action Analytics?

The best way to get started on Action Analytics is to just do it. Begin by addressing immediate needs – predictive modeling for retention, peer institution comparisons of productivity, and measures of institutional outcomes, for example. Conduct an assessment of the current organizational capacity/readiness for analytics (technology, processes, people, and culture), identify analytic needs and the gap betrween current and future. Then plan to fill the gaps and advance a campaign to build the institution’s analytics IQ and organizational capacity.

Many institutions leaders are awakened by “eureka!” moments to the fact that their organizational capacity for analytics is inadequate to current imperatives.

These moments of realization can be caused by an unfavorable report from regional accrediting teams, citing the institution’s lack of information on key elements of student success. Or watching an excellent institutional strategic plan unravel over three years of implementation because it wasn’t aligned at the institutional, college, department, and program levels, creating clear targets, measures, and responsibilities at all levels. Or finding that their institution is awash in data, but that the data are “hiding in plain sight,” unable to be combined with other data to create just the analyses needed to address an institutional problem or an external mandate.

Other moments of clarity can come when the institution has taken steps to address analytics – such as upgrading its ERP systems, purchasing new business intelligence tools, and/or developing predictive modeling for use in enrollment management – only to find that these steps are not enough. The new gold standard for analytics requires greater functionality, openness, and the capacity to extract and combine data from a far broader set of resources – administrative, academic, assessment, alignment, and external.

My colleagues and I recently completed an intensive two-day action analytics consultation at a metropolitan university in which we convened working groups from across the institution. We emerged with an assessment/projection of their current and future analytics capabilities and their readiness for Action Analytics, and established a recommended set of next steps, including producing quick wins to demonstrate the value of analytics. One of the Vice Presidents observed, “If we had done this process, several years, we would have assessed ourselves much more favorably, but our exemplary analytics were in particular silos. The bar for analytics and alignment has been raised dramatically and we must respond.”

Making serious advances in analytics is a multi-year initiative and a campaign, not a defined project like implementing a new analytic tool or an upgrade to institutional ERP. But such initiatives begin with first steps and the awareness that current approaches to analytics are inadequate to future expectations - including lifting out of recession.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Why Is Web 2.0 So Important to Analytics?

The progressive introduction and dissemination of Web Services is reshaping the nature of collaboration and analytics in many industries, including higher education. Many educators ask the question, "OK, we're using Web 2.0 on the academic side, but what does it have to do with analytics?"

Put simply, Web 2.0 is enabling the following developments:

1) Web 2.0 extends information sharing anad analytics beyond the tight integration of tradition enterprise resource planning (ERP) "stacks" to draw from loosely coupled sources of data. These include administrative ERP (Student, Financial, Financial Aid, Human Resources, Advancement) plus third-party operational systems (e.g. security, parking, residence halls), academic information systems (e.g. learning management systems, library) assessment (NSSE, CSSE, course evaluation, internal assessment), alignment (alignment of strategies and targets at institutional, college, and department levels), and external resources (peer institution data, cost and student success data, institutional rankings). Web 2.0 facilitates data mining and meta-analysis using these resources. Many vendors are "opening up" their proprietary products in response to Web 2.0, the attractiveness of open architecture, and the demands of university users dissatisfied with the limitations of tightly integrated, proprietary systems.

2) Web 2.0 enables mash-ups of applications - analytical and operational - that can support decision makers in new ways. It also enables the development and mashing up of specialized niche applications that address operational anad analytical needs that the ERP vendors have never been able to incorporate in their stacks (the ERP stacks typically address 85-90% of institution's functional needs). New applications providers are fashioning so-called "long tale" applications that address these niche applications in more flexible, less costly ways. This is superior to costly customizations in tightly integrated ERP applications.

3) Web 2.0 facilitates collaboration and social networking, support by rich information repositories and analytic resources that enable the functioning of Communities of Practice (CoP) that support academic and administrative practice. An excellent example is edu1world (, a CoP serving higher education administrators. This CoP supports a variety of communities and subcommunities, some private and some public. These collaborative tools enable the formation of constellations of CoPs within institutions and/or spanning multiple institutions, special interest groups, vendor communities, and more.

4) Web 2.0 facilitates foresight, prediction, and the optimization of analytics drawing from multiple data sources. Many institutions are awash in data, but find much of this data is "hiding in plain sight." Web 2.0-based advances are opening data and insformation resources to analytic use and enabling greater optimization of these resources.

In future entries, we will provide examples of the analytic advances made possible by Web 2.0.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why Analytics and Lifting Out of Recession?

We are launching this blog to discuss three simple theses:

  • A new generation of “action analytics” is emerging in higher education.
  • The current recession requires both immediate, severe cutbacks/adjustments and longer-term innovation and reinvention of higher education.
  • Lifting out of recession in a manner that sustains higher education’s competitive advantage will require re-imagining our policies, processes, practices, performance, and value propositions for the post-recession global economy. Analytics will be critical to our success.

Premise #1: A new generation of analytic capabilities is emerging in higher education. These analytics are driven by two factors: 1) the skyrocketing demands for accountability by higher education’s publics – an issue that will be at the forefront of re-imagining institutions, and 2) the proliferation of Web 2.0 tools and practices. Some practitioners refer to these new practices as business intelligence, higher education informatics, or performance measurement and improvement. We prefer the term, Action Analytics ®, to describe the next generation of analytics practices, so powerful that they don’t just enable action, they demand it.

In the article, “Action Analytics: Measuring and Improving Performance That Matter in Higher Education”. EDUCAUSE Review, Jan/Feb 2008, my colleagues Linda Baer, Joan Leonard, Lou Pugliese, Paul Lefrere, and I described the elements of open-architecture enabled action analytics - :

  • The capacity to extract data from a wide range of internal and external data sources – administrative ERP, academic information systems, assessment, alignment, and external information sources – enabling greater cross-institutional/cross-sector analysis;
  • Loosely-coupled data, information, reporting, and analytics capabilities combining data marts/warehouses, ETL, OLAP, BI and data mining/predictive modeling capabilities with assessment management/alignment tools and other niche applications; and
  • A presentation and visualization layer consisting of a range of tools like dashboards, scorecards, portals, portfolio, data libraries/data books, and other visualization tools – more advanced and sophisticated than today’s.

The new generation of analytics will not be broadly distributed, overnight. Technology is just part of the issue. Building organizational analytics capacity requires changing the behaviors of leaders, faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders and reshaping institutional culture. Already underway before the recession, the emergence of a culture of performance improvement will accelerate. The need to establish financial sustainability demands it.

Premise #2: The current recession is hammering high education in a way that requires both immediate cutbacks and longer-term innovations/reinventions of many aspects of higher education. Higher education’s pain is caused by a perfect storm of financial woes: reductions in state appropriations for public institutions, dramatic reductions in investments, most impactful on private institutions, and traumatic declines in the capacity of parents and students to pay for higher education, today and continuing into the future. The affordability crisis will likely accelerate even after the economy improves.

We are all familiar with the short-term adjustments pummeling campuses today: financial rescissions, short-term fixes, competing for and leveraging stimulus money, lay-offs, furloughs, pay cuts, creative approaches to financial aid, continuing to increase tuition to fill the gaps, compressing the time for an undergraduate degree from four (or more) to three years, and enrollment shifts to less-expensive institutions. In the short-run, financial exigency seems to be trumping innovation. But campus financial officers know that budgetary challenges in 2-3 years may be even more harsh when stimulus money is gone. Moreover, demands for transparency and accountability are growing. In years two, three, and beyond, institutions will need to pursue a mixed strategy of operation efficiency, innovation, reimagining, and new revenues to reclaim financial sustainability.

In the literature on responding to recession, writers from other industries emphasize innovation and preparing to compete in the post-recession economy. Higher education must do the same.

We are assembling examples of institutions responding to these imperatives with efficiencies, innovations, and reinventions – many of which will be shaped by analytics. Their cases will tell the story of survival and reinvention.

Premise #3: In order to lift out of recession, higher education needs to increase its use of analytics. Analytics will incease both internally and externally. Institutional leaders must discover and demonstrate improvements in operational efficiency and leverage innovation and re-imagination of programs and services. Action analytics will prove critical to improving and demonstrating the value proposition for high education.

Comparative measures of access, convenience and affordability (total time and cost of education), and success (completion, employment, satisfaction with outcomes and experiences) are emerging. The public will eventually demand these measures – and greater transparency from most institutions. Options for accelerated completion, greater convenience, and programs tailored to workforce needs will be valued. The availability of these programs will be broadly publicized.

Higher education is not alone in being under the microscope of public scrutiny. Virtually every industry is striving to reinvent its practices tio deal with the challenge of global competitiveness, post-recession: financial services, real estate, manufacturing, agriculture, retail, energy, transportation, and health care. In particular, our national competitiveness depends on health care and education reimagining themselves. Health care is being pressed to reduce costs, improve health outcomes, eliminate disparities in access to health care and outcomes, and practice evidence-based medicine. PK-20 education is facing expectations to remake itself in fundamental ways: halt the escalating total cost of education for individuals and families, increase the educational attainment of the population, reduce remediation and improve success rates, improve educational outcomes and provide evidence of their attainment, and provide the fexibility and choice needed by diverse populations of learners at all stages of life and careers.

Our goal is to blog on tales of analytics, lifting out of recession, and the intersecting of the two. Primarily in higher education, but also in other industries that can be illustrative. Stay tuned for more from the front lines of evidence-based, re-imagined practices. Please join the discussion and share insights, offer examples and best practices, and debate how higher education can emerge from this recession in a position to thrive.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stay Tuned

There is a lot to say, so stay tuned...