Words that used to bore, like "analytics" and "data mining" have now been promoted to triggers for paranoia and suspicion. However Orwellian the implications may indeed be, there is still a benign and in fact beneficial side to these activities because the ability to collect and measure feeds into the rational search for product and service improvement. It's not all spying and dirty secrets, to be sure.
So in a world where we collect data on everything we do as an
institution here at NAU, it is critical that we can access that data and represent it as
usable information. The Blackboard
Analytics application is one effort to do just that. The first phase of this
project is focused on student administration data to include recruitment,
admissions, enrollment, and financial aid data with the goal of providing campus
leadership easier access and more consistent views of data critical to their
decision making needs. Rather than rely on theory and anecdotal information to try to improve retention and the experience of students at NAU, we can base planning on empirical data and sound analytical methods.
Blackboard Analytics utilizes a different data structure
than our existing data warehouse. This functionality delivers the ability to
“drill-down” into the data that is provided in the high-level data on multiple
axes. Thus, being able to view the underlying details that are contributing to
the higher-level synopsis. This capability will add an needed analysis tool
with the first analytics dashboards available later this spring.
The benefits in the ability to move through levels of aggregated data accrue in a fuller understanding of how trends develop, which can help the analysts avoid some of the pitfalls of statistics with regard to sampling methods. And building a history of such data permits us to see trends and make sounder predictions to better tune our organizations and processes to improve NAU's educational role.