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Data analysis for the education sector
27 Oct, 2010 - Lachlan James

Grab your track pants, sharpen your pencils and put on your Mortarboard. We’re going back to school. But it’s ok. Relax. It’s not what you think – you’re not going to have to front up to your college tormenter or that antiquated lecturer with the bad breath and crafty comb-over.

We’re going to take a look at how a Business Intelligence (BI) tool can be used within Higher Education institutions.


Building a case for BI in Higher Education institutions

In the face of budgetary constraints, intense competition for student enrolments from other institutions, government and regulatory demands, a constantly changing job market and pressure to expand academic programs with limited resources, Higher Education institutions need to understand their business operations, target market and have the ability to do more with less. Reporting and analytics software can help.


What are the key metrics that BI tools should analyze and report on in the Higher Education sector?

Higher Education institutions are notoriously complex, encompassing many different departments – both in a business and academic sense. For this reason, there are many key data sets relating to the business and academic operations that need to be collected and analyzed in order to maintain competitive advantage. These include, but are not limited to:
  • Finances and departmental budgeting
  • Student admission, enrollment and retention rates
  • Institutional performance as measured against objectives and benchmarks
  • Academic performance of student body
  • Popularity and success of courses and services as defined by pre-determined objectives and benchmarks to help develop long-term strategic planning and budgetary allocation
  • Staff performance

Benefits of BI in Higher Education

While there are many generic benefits of implementing a BI solution that are legitimately applicable to the education sector, here are some that are exclusive to it:
  • Improve course offerings: Monitor and assess student feedback and enrolment figures for courses and individual subjects to help more effectively tailor course and facility offerings to stimulate demand
  • Monitor student body key metrics: The ability to decipher gaps and demands in student services, support and academic offerings will lead to improved student performance, satisfaction and well-being, and lead to higher enrolment figures and better academic results
  • Manage and develop curricula according to market demand

Information consolidation

Higher Education institutions have many different types of data held within many different departments and operating systems, including information captured through and related to:
  • Student services and administration
  • Student admissions and enrolments
  • Academic performance
  • Online learning portals
  • Finances
  • HR (staff performance and recruitment)
  • Alumni database
  • Research
A BI program will simplify data management, bringing together disparate data from across multiple departments and organizational functional areas, to facilitate effective monitoring of, and superior insight into, the overall operational environment.


Conclusion: A complex operating environment needs an easy-to-use BI tool

Because of the diverse range of functions and features carried out within Higher Education institutions, a BI tool capable of being accessed and utilized by personnel from all backgrounds (technical and non-technical) must be selected, to ensure successful implementation, actionable insights and high Return on Investment. Higher Education institutions must select a BI tool that is:
  • Collaborative and easy-to-use: Empowers non-technical users to interact with, comment on and share reports, to support and promote widespread end-user adoption and organization-wide knowledge sharing
  • Personalized: Offers personalized dashboards to keep personnel from across the organization up to date with real-time KPIs relevant to their job position
  • Secure: Offers robust security features to ensure that access to information is customizable so that only authorized users can access restricted information
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