What Data Can and Can’t Do for Your University

What Data Can and Can’t Do for Your University, Part 1

Data, and the ability to analyze and report on it, can transform universities. But in a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mark Salisbury, assistant dean and director of institutional research and assessment at Augustana College in Illinois, noted that “[d]espite all the cheerleading that seems to have accompanied big data’s arrival on campus, its promise to transform higher education continues to surge well ahead of its supporting evidence.” So what can and can’t data do for your university?

Data and reporting capabilities are essential for higher education as universities grapple with the challenges of changing public expectations, increasing accountability to multiple stakeholders, uncertainty surrounding funding and ensuring that the education students receive prepares them to be future thinkers, workers and citizens. But a data solution is simply a tool. Just as the hammer in your toolbox can’t build a house by itself, no data solution will magically transform your institution on its own. That said, a data solution is, like a hammer, a remarkably potent tool. In the third part of this series, we’ll discuss your role in ensuring that a data solution realizes its full potential to benefit your institution.

The benefits a data solution can provide your university include:

  • Improving efficiency
  • Easing accreditation and other reporting
  • Increasing data accuracy
  • Measuring impacts
  • And, yes, transforming your university

In the first of this three-part series, we’ll dive into the most immediate benefit of a data solution—improving efficiency for gathering and reporting on data. We’ll address the remaining benefits, and your role in achieving those benefits, in future posts.

Improve Efficiency

your challenges, our expertiseEfficiency is a fairly humble-sounding outcome of investing in a data solution, but don’t underestimate its importance. Entering data once then reporting on it from all angles is no small matter. Consider how many times people within your institution reach out to faculty and others for information—how often is it similar to information requested before?

The administrative time spent sending out these requests and aggregating responses, in addition to the time spent by faculty and others to send the same or similar information—again—adds up fast. For example, research on the time saved when using a faculty activity reporting solution revealed that an institution with:

  • 7 colleges
  • 55 departments
  • 650 faculty reviews per year
  • 38 promotion and tenure cases per year
  • 24 ad hoc information request about faculty activities per year

Could expect to see time savings totalling 3,498 hours, including:

  • 1,085 hours for annual reporting
  • 250 hours for promotion and tenure
  • 2,163 hours for ad hoc information requests

Review the methodology behind these calculations as well as the universities who participated in the research here. Calculate savings for a university of your size here.

“Efficiency” doesn’t have the curb appeal of “transformation.” But if you’ve used the tool above to calculate time savings for your institution, you have a reasonable estimate of the hours your  faculty and administrative team won’t spend digging for needed information then manually aggregating and tabulating it. Consider the value of freeing your faculty and administrative staff to do the work that matters most—teaching, research and service—and the importance of efficiency becomes crystal clear.

In the next post, we’ll look more closely at leveraging a data solution to ease accreditation and other reporting, and how a data solution improves the accuracy of the data you collect and therefore the information you report to stakeholders. In the final post of this series, we’ll look at the biggest promise of a data solution—institutional transformation—and your role in ensuring that your university achieves that your data solution can help you fulfill that promise.

If you’d like to learn more about the efficiencies you discovered in the time-savings calculator, we’d be glad to talk with you.


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