“All the gear, no idea” (Analytics in HE)

Even though we are deep in the now, many Universities are starting to think about 2021 and beyond. It will come to no surprise that a core topic across the sector is that of ‘what is normal going to look like?’

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A very common response to the predication that we are going to be more blended is to further ramp up analytics either via the University VLE or other means. Regular readers will know I spend a lot of time bugging people across the sector with questions or they bug me with questions. It’s a good way to keep on top of what is happening.

What is interesting about the private conversations I’ve had over the last three months with a mixture of technical providers, learning technologists and leaders is that most seem to have little or no plan for role change when considering ramping up the use of analytics. There is discussion of process change (if that happens is another matter…) but actual role change? no.

I keep asking “so how do you plan to redefine roles such as programmes leaders in terms of the fundamental importance of data?”

Across the sector I just get silence to this question. I ask because it’s clear that it is core to any significant transformation via analytics. It’s not enough to buy the gear, we have to have some idea. The programme leader role is so fundamental to changing practice in a school that any large investment in analytics and infrastructure has to be coupled with the following questions:

  • To what extent is being data literate a core part of being a programme leader or simply a ‘nice to have’? If it’s a nice to have – what’s the point of the analytics?
  • How does the provision of new analytics fundamentally change the behaviours of programme leaders and other staff in making targeted interventions? If it does not – why do you expect any real change?
  • What does the job specification for a programme leader look if you start from scratch and assume that they have to be data literate and have their behaviours influenced by data? if it looks the same – great job! (but I doubt it).
  • If you did the above and had two days to boot-camp the programme leaders on their new defined role – what would it include? I actually don’t know!

You could argue the same about other roles but I think in terms of abstraction the programme leader is where I’d start if trying to get the maximum benefit from any large investments in analytics. This is partly because they tend to be a node between so many different functions and groups that they are the best place to build outwards from.

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