Page 19 - Campus Technology, July 2017
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key. He said WSU must do a multi-domain analysis of academic performance, financial acumen and the student’s sense of community and social structure. “These are important elements that make up the functioning of a human being and how they are going to behave and how it is going to lead to success,” he said.
“To look at students from a more holistic perspective, we have to be able to mine data around several things. One of these days we will be able to know half as much about our students as Target knows about you and me now,” he said. “I am confident we will be able to predict, even before they arrive on campus, how successful students will be in our environment. At the end of the day, it is all about behaviors and the more good behaviors we can instill in freshmen, the more they will be able to be retained. The question is connecting the data points in a way that is statistically significant. That is where the data science and data mining come in. We are deploying the pieces of it, but haven’t hit on the secret sauce. Some of that is coming from EAB now, but we want to create our own secret sauce.”
University of Maryland, Baltimore County: Focus on Data Warehouse to Increase Agility Jack Suess, vice president of information technology and CIO at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, noted that it is often the case that if a campus hasn’t
developed the infrastructure to be able to move on a student success agenda, the solution tends to be buying a product. “That is not bad. Companies such as EAB, Civitas and other third parties are coming up with valuable products,” said Suess, who last year co-authored an article on this topic for the Educause Review with Hank Childers of the University of Arizona.
“What Hank and I were saying is that IT leaders need to be thinking about how to set up the infrastructure to be able to support this longer term,” Suess explained. “Often these initial forays into buying a commercial product are addressing a part of the student success initiative, but no one vendor has a fully 100 percent complete solution that is going to be the be-all, end-all,” he said. In many instances, the decisions to go buy third-party systems are happening, rightly, in the chief academic officer’s office, he said. “The provost is saying, ‘We have a mandate from the legislature to move on student success. We can’t wait for IT to deliver some solution three years from now.’ What I am trying to say to campuses is: You might buy a solution, but you should also be building an infrastructure that is going to allow you to take advantage of other solutions in the future in a more efficient way.”
The biggest problem Suess sees is that vendors such as Civitas and EAB want to interface directly to your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Problems can crop up when
the numbers coming out of one of these systems do not match the numbers being produced by the institutional research (IR) team. That makes some people on campus suspicious of the risk calculations, which has stymied some of the success efforts, he said.
Suess believes campuses should create a data warehouse that interfaces with these success systems. “That is what we do at UMBC. I have EAB, Civitas and Blackboard Predict,” he said. “All of them get fed from our business intelligence system, not from our ERP. My IR department also uses the BI platform to do their official reporting. The validation of data is much easier because it is all coming out of the same system that has been normalized. IR is working with us to make sure the data that goes into the system is as accurate as possible.”
Suess said more and more companies are going to come into the success space with point solutions. “What you want to do is have this abstraction layer that allows you to add any vendor that can bring in significant value quickly and effectively. That is only going to happen if you get to the point where you abstract it through this BI system. And in the short term, most campuses can’t do that.”
The future is going to require agility and flexibility, he added. “You aren’t going to be agile if you are integrating these things directly into your ERP system.”
David Raths is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. BACK TO TOC

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