Transforming HEIs using advanced analytics

Transforming Higher Education Institutions using advanced analytics

Analytics is a technological tool to discover meaningful patterns and actionable insights for informed decision-making based on current and historical data.

The next 10-15 years will witness higher education being significantly driven by innovation, quality and experimentation. Students will demand immersive, experiential and personalised learning that will challenge their critical thinking and enable them to acquire job-ready skill sets. This clearly indicates the need for higher education institutes to develop new and efficient pedagogy models that will fulfill the expectations of students.

In this context, it is imperative that higher education institutions become tech-savvy to prepare for the future. An increasing number of educational institutes have already taken the first step or are in the process towards implementation of digital tools and online courses. But, there is also a parallel need for colleges and universities to look beyond digital learning and take the approach of business intelligence in the way they function. It is here that advanced analytics comes into the picture.

Analytics is a technological tool to discover meaningful patterns and actionable insights for informed decision-making based on current and historical data. Now, this shouldn’t be really difficult for educational institutes given that they sit on heaps of data and records. All that is required is to leverage analytics to convert this raw data into useful information.

Let’s take a look at how higher education institutes are transforming themselves using advanced analytics:

Impactful pedagogy

Every student has different learning curves, strengths and weaknesses. It is rather unreasonable that a common teaching model is used assuming that all students have a homogeneous potential or mental aptitude.

Analytics is helping educators understand the most impactful pedagogy for an individual student or a group of students in the same category. They are able to find out the drawbacks or reasons why a particular student is underperforming or under-engaged, and accordingly tailor the instruction methods to make it a more effective learning experience.

Specific outcomes

Education loses its purpose if it does not result in desirable goals or outcomes. In the traditional educational model, it is challenging to predict the learning outcomes of students.

Analytics provides a very useful insight here. It accurately predicts the risk of failing, dropping out or under-performance of students. Now, this is indeed powerful information at hand for teachers to help struggling students. They can modify their pedagogy to make necessary early interventions to improve the possibility of achieving specific outcomes. Analytics can help institutes to replace ‘sink and swim’ mindset with ‘student success and retention’ strategy.

Competency-assessment 

Students opting for a particular course or degree programme may not necessarily be aligned with their competencies. For example, a student may be seeking admission in an engineering college out of the herd mentality of friends or parents. In reality, he may be more suited for business management or an architectural degree.

Analytics is being used by higher education institutes during the admission process to reduce such cases. Instead of measuring knowledge of students only through entrance tests or interviews, institutes are now looking at administering competency-based tests to evaluate their personal interest, traits, aptitude and soft skills. This will ensure that students select the right academic programme and career path. It will also benefit institutes because they will be able to narrow down their target audience and engage students in a better way.

Placement and employment trends

Business organisations have often complained about the skill development gap between education and employment. This requires academicians to understand the job landscape and adapt the curriculum to employer expectations in real-time. This will not only result in student learning necessary real-world skills but also increase their chances of recruitment during campus placements.

Analytics can help educational institutes to capture real-time information on placement and employment trends in terms of skills and knowledge expectations of employers, trending job profiles, etc. Analytics can also generate reports on previous placements, the performance of students in written assessments and interviews for the job, and co-relate what went wrong or right and why. Based on this information, institutes can formulate their placement strategy and attract more employers.

Comparative analysis 

Some educational institutes are more popular and reputed than others in terms of curriculum, campus facilities, quality of faculty, placements, etc. An educational institute striving to reach a certain benchmark to gain more brand visibility needs to assess its strengths and weaknesses against its competitors.

Analytics is enabling institutes to do an accurate and reliable comparative analysis with other institutes. This will help them to address problem areas, improve upon weaknesses and streamline various processes. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that analytics can give a competitive advantage to institutes and make them more profitable.

Administrative workload

The sheer amount of administrative tasks pertaining to maintaining the data of students, staff, attendance, exams, class schedules, admissions, placements, budget, utilities, compliances, etc. that educational institutes have to undertake is overwhelming, tedious and time-consuming. This translates into delayed decision-making.

Educational institutes are leveraging analytics to automate the collection, storage and processing of data. This further enables to generate quick, reliable reports and make data-driven decisions in real-time.
Analytics is touted as a game-changing technology in the higher education sector. It makes learning more student-centred and eliminates the risks of unknown from education.

(The author is director, Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development, Pune)