Big Data and Analytics

The Big Data and analytics era is well and truly upon us in the higher education industry, but what does it all mean for colleges and universities? While some leaders are excited by the opportunity to improve efficiency and student support, others fear a slow march away from the personalization that makes postsecondary education a transformative experience for learners.

The truth is that, for any institution, Big Data is what institutional leaders and staff make of it. But when effectively leveraged, analytics can help a college or university deliver the personalized, contextual and high-quality experience today’s students expect… at scale.

This Special Feature dives into what it takes for institutions to adapt to the Big Data era and shares insights into numerous aspects of this conversation, from how to create a data-driven culture on campus to how data visualizations can help translate numbers into action.


Understanding the Potential for Data

Using Analytics to Transform Decision Making in Higher Education: Patience is a Virtue

By leveraging the information gleaned from Big Data, institutions can drive student outcomes in meaningful ways, improving success rates and supporting both revenues and funding.

The Fog of Information and Analytics

Leveraging data analytics and business intelligence is critical for colleges and universities today, not just in monitoring key performance indicators but also to support continuous process improvement and to serve as the basis for decision making and action institution-wide.


Making Data Part of Higher Ed’s Fabric

The Past, Present and Future of Big Data in Higher Ed

The use of analytics in supporting institutional management has come a long way over the past few decades, but in today’s environment Big Data can have a transformational impact on efficiency and effectiveness in the postsecondary space, and the future looks even brighter.

The Human Element and the Power of Big Data in Higher Education

Big Data allows higher education leaders to both see and create an environment where they’re able to meet—and even anticipate—the broad and unique needs of their students at scale.

Eschewing Tradition for the Non-Traditional: Analytics and the Modern University

Every aspect of a higher education institution—from the classroom to the boardroom—can benefit immensely from the increased leveraging of data, and the impact will magnify as analytics efforts evolve from reactive to predictive.

Making Business Tools Work for Higher Education

Institutions that build data analysis into their decision-making processes, both in the academic and business sides of the house, will see immense benefits in their ability to attract, retain and serve students.


Building a Data Culture on Campus

Rallying Behind the Data: Building a Data-Backed Culture

Developing a data-backed culture starts with top-to-bottom belief in the value of data and then connecting that data to results for administrators, staff and faculty across campus.

Getting the Most Out of Data: Six Tips to Establish a Data-Driven Institutional Culture


Data can be a transformative tool that supports action touching every aspect of the institution, but to make it valuable institutional leaders need to focus on developing a data-driven culture that ensures all decisions are backed by solid information.


Reassessing Assumptions About Higher Education

A Needed Shift in Defining Higher Education Value: Using Data to Both Create and Prove Value

Data can drive success in more ways than one. Institutions can leverage data to improve the student experience and learning outcomes, which impact their outcomes metrics, which can then be used in outreach efforts to attract new students while affirming the positive impact of the institution itself.

How Should Higher Ed Leaders Think About Data?

The siloing of higher education institutions and the relatively slow pace of change in the EdTech sector has created roadblocks for colleges and universities looking to leverage Big Data, but customer lifecycle management technologies may present an exciting opportunity.


Leveraging Data to Support the Student Experience

Applying Student Success Analytics Platforms in Higher Education

Though technology and data analytics alone cannot transform an institution’s student success initiatives, if they are widely adopted and deeply integrated at a strategic and tactical level they can make a big difference.

Student Centricity and the Modern University: Rooting the Student Experience in Data

Leveraging data can help an institution become more student-centric at every level, from guiding the way they interact with students to designing the bureaucracy to fit with student tendencies.

Big Data, Big Opportunity, Big Challenge

Leveraging Big Data can have a transformational effect on the institutional ability to serve students while also helping leaders and staff to be more effective and impactful without overloading them.


Data’s Transformational Effect on Decision-Making

Making Sense of the Numbers: Using Data to Support Students Across Their Lifecycle

Democratizing data means putting it in the hands of decision makers at every level of the institution, creating the potential for more data-driven work and intervention at every stage of the student lifecycle.

Using Data to Drive Decision-Making

Data can play a central role in defining institutional strategy, but to be useful, that data must be collected and analyzed in a systematic way that minimizes the chance of error, and presented in a way that’s easy to understand.


Bringing Everyone On-Board With Data

The Move to Big Data Requires a Change in Campus Culture

Committing to a data-driven culture on campus can be transformational for every stakeholder at a college or university, but that commitment needs to be conscious and backed up by investment of human and financial resources as well as action.

Selling Data to the Skeptics

Though data can have a significantly positive impact on program-level staff, many leaders run into roadblocks when it comes to adoption of this kind of information. It’s up to senior administrators to ensure this data is accessible to all staff, and that they really understand its potential.

10 Steps to Establishing a Data Driven Campus Culture

Collecting and even analyzing data is not enough, in isolation, to drive real change on a college or university campus. What’s critical is to make data responsiveness part of the cultural identity.


Identifying and Overcoming Data-Related Security Concerns

Beyond Security: Overcoming Additional Risks Associated with Institutional Data Analytics

Data security and consistency are critical considerations for any institution looking to leverage Big Data in decision making, and the first step is to address both the technological and policy challenges.

The Impact of Big Data on Student Privacy and How Universities Must React

As colleges and universities continue to move towards more online accessibility to all aspects of the institution, it’s critical that IT leaders—and other institutional stakeholders—thoroughly think through how they use, manage and store data.

Big Data and Big Risks: Protecting Higher Education from Cyberattack

One feature of making Big Data an institutional reality is leveraging huge amounts of digital information stored in data warehouses, but there is a very real danger to storing—and sometimes moving—huge amounts of data.


Debunking Common Myths Surrounding Big Data

Learning Analytics: Coming Out From Behind the Curtains

As Big Data and analytics become increasingly central to the management of both the academic and bureaucratic arms of postsecondary institutions, it’s critical for leaders to deal with issues around algorithmic bias, transparency, data ownership and more.

Going Wrong with Data

We often assume that data is infallible, and while that’s far from the truth, a better understanding of assumptions required in data analysis—as well as a commitment to observation and critical thinking by users—can help avoid pitfalls.


Getting Big Data Off the Ground: How to Grow Business Intelligence on Campus

Actions Speak Louder Than Words: The Impact of a Data-Centric Institutional Culture

When it comes to creating a data-centric culture on campus, words are not enough. Starting with a shared vision from leadership and a commitment across the institution to information sharing and collaboration, stakeholders across the institution need to buy into the vision of data-backed student success in order to make it a reality.

Analytics and the New Academy


Before diving into the full capacity for what analytics can bring to a college or university, there’s an adjustment period where leaders learn the possibilities of this information and figure out how to make it actionable.


Using Data to Drive Institutional Strategy and Growth

Navigating the CBE Frontier: Leveraging Data to Improve Student Service and Outcomes

By collecting, analyzing and leveraging data, innovative institutions can be more assured in the launching and long-term viability of unique and “uncharted” programs, but there are a few critical steps that must first be taken.

How Big Data Can Transform the Institution: Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Change

Leveraging data analytics can have a transformative effect on enrollment management, but getting Big Data off the ground requires institutional leaders to commit to change and identify clear priorities.


Leveraging Data to Support Innovation and Institutional Success

The Totally Un-Sexy Side of Innovation: Building an Infrastructure for Big and Better Data

The business model inertia rampant across the postsecondary space is largely driven by an industry-wide inability to leverage data, and institutional leaders need to look at technologies that can help integrate their data into a single analysis engine to foster a data-driven culture on their campuses.

Avoiding Icebergs on Higher Ed’s Big Data Seas

Integrating data into the decision-making process for all new endeavors is an important step for higher education leaders to take, but it takes teamwork and a focus on institutional mission to really leverage data’s potential.

Analytics and Student Success in the Two-Year Sector


At the two-year level, student success is more important today than ever, and data can play a huge role in ensuring institutions are keeping their learners on course.


The Impact of Data on Services and Success

Using Analytics to Drive Online Retention and Success

Online learning has created new and exciting avenues for students to access postsecondary programming, but such a new environment hammers home the point that traditional approaches to management and success must evolve to suit these students.

Who’s Really in Trouble? Why Advisors Need Analytics

Introducing technologies that support collaboration and sharing of data are critical to creating a data-driven environment where staff, faculty and administrators are all able to use data for decision making, interventions and actions.

Taking Advising Analytics Beyond the Numbers: The Road to Improved Academic Advising (Part 4)


Analytics can be leveraged to transform institutional advising practices—after all, colleges and universities have access to huge amounts of data. However, that information should be used carefully in order to ensure its effectiveness.


Leveraging Big Data’s Promise at Small Institutions

From Reports to Analysis: Big Data and Data Analytics in Small Institutions


The adoption of data analytics and Big Data in higher education has led to an improved staff experience, greater operational efficiency and effectiveness, and the ability to improve the student experience.

Big Data Versus Small Colleges

Big Data is becoming increasingly important for effective institutional management and, while smaller institutions may be challenged by limited resources, their potential to use this data to craft an even more personalized experience for students creates an exciting opportunity.


Making Data Ubiquitous at Smaller Institutions

Actionable Analytics for Enrollment Managers: How to Stop Worrying About (and Love) the Data

In an era of limited resources, leaders leverage data to determine where best to direct their efforts and use that same data to get buy-in for new approaches and ideas.

Institutional Flexibility and Student Support Rooted in Data and Analytics

Leveraging the power of Big Data can help smaller institutions adapt more quickly to market shifts and deliver a high-quality experience to changing demographics of learners.


Bringing Data to Life with Dashboards and Visualizations

Take the Hint: Shifting from Anecdotes to Analytics

By leveraging power data visualizations, institutions can make data-driven decision making a reality and move away from the anecdotal and tradition-steeped approach to organizational management that has dominated the postsecondary space for decades.

Making Data Actionable: Visualizations, Dashboards and Leveraging Big Data on Campus

Collecting and analyzing data is all well and good, but data visualizations make it possible to understand the insights from the data at a more granular level and allow for the broader democratization of business intelligence across the institution.


Creating a Plan: Understanding What To Track

Four Key Variables Institutions Must Track to Measure Online Student Success

Without having the ability to track student behaviors and institutional trends, it would be impossible to understand what makes a student successful. That said, even with that ability, institutional leaders still need to define what to measure, and how.

Driving Institutional Change with Data: Identifying Obstacles to Actionable Business Intelligence

Leveraging data to create actionable outcomes is critically important for the effective management of a college or university in the modern environment, but turning the huge amounts of data collected by institutions into valuable insights can be challenging.


Next-Gen Predictive Analytics

Data-Driven Decision-Making: Leveraging Predictive Analytics More Widely

Predictive analytics are going to become common in higher education, not just in the classroom but across the institution as well. But there are a few roadblocks that need to be overcome first.

Improving the Student Experience with Personalization and Integration

Students are identifying numerous inconvenient points in their interactions with the university that could be solved by leveraging data and consciously working to reduce the impact of silos.

Splitting Hairs: Exploring Learn-ing vs Learn-er Analytics (and Why We Should Care)

Though most postsecondary administrators use “learning analytics” to describe the entire swathe of data becoming available, these data split into two unique categories with significant differences in how the data can be leveraged and by whom.


Taking an Institutional View of Data: Moving Past Silos

Overcoming Siloes to Use Data More Strategically

Though it’s currently a competitive advantage for institutions to shift to an integrated data environment that allows for better-informed decision making and interventions, it will soon be common in the postsecondary space and institutions that do not shift will be left behind.

Big Data: Transcending Disciplines in Higher Education

Increasing numbers of college and university programs are teaching students how to leverage data in their future careers, but it’s time for institutions themselves to explore how that same data-mindedness can transform their internal management practices.

Creating a Data-Driven Advising Culture: Overcoming Three Central Roadblocks

Leveraging data effectively in the advising arena can fundamentally transform the student support efforts of an institution, but there must be a broader cultural shift accompanying the adoption of analytics to ensure success.


The Future of Big Data in Higher Education

Achieving the Student-Centered Experience: Bridging Mission, Technology and Consumerism

Students today demand a highly integrated, seamless consumer experience, and that trend is only going to grow over time. Delivering a modern, personalized student experience based on data is a critical priority for institutions, and business intelligence must be at the center of these efforts.

Leveraging Big Data to Drive Student Success

As student success becomes a priority for increasing numbers of institutions—and as the “success” part of that equation begins to encapsulate more than just completion—institutions need to find ways to leverage data to transform their student experience and support the broad success of their learners.

Five Self-Imposed Roadblocks to Using Data

Data is absolutely essential to the success of a modern higher education institution, but beyond the roadblocks that stand in the way of its implementation the most important thing leaders must be cognizant of is the cleanliness and integrity of their data.