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.

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