Data AnalysisIf you are utilizing an online learning platform, chances are you are also collecting data about a variety of components. Maybe you want to know about student demographics or perhaps you want to track the click-through rates of your web banners. Regardless of what data you are collecting, the question you should be asking is how can I properly analyze this data so it serves a greater purpose?

Collecting data serves many important purposes. In addition to determining how well your website is functioning or if your marketing efforts are reaching your target audience, the analysis of data can also help to make policy decisions or changes. This can be as simple as whether your online systems or online classrooms are set up to properly serve your students, or you can utilize the data to measure more complex scenarios.

One of the most important measurements of a successful higher education program is the number of students who are completing or graduating from your program, as well as the economic growth in prosperity they receive after completion. By analyzing this type of data, your can see if your institution is truly serving its students, and make the necessary adjustments where needed.

Another area where data analysis can prove useful is in determining emerging online learning trends. The recently released NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition (a collaboration between New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, an EDUCAUSE Program) set out to do just that. They conducted an analysis on emerging technology that could impact online higher education over the next five years.

Regardless of what data you are collecting, the question you should be asking is how can I properly analyze this data so it serves a greater purpose?

Through their analysis, they identified six trends, six challenges and six important developments in technology, which could change higher education policy, leadership and practice. (Read the report in its entirety)

One of the most influential trends emerging is analyzing student online activity data. This analysis is designed to help improve a student’s experience and set them up for success, instead of failure. For instance, tracking whether students are attending class, participating in class, reaching out to their professors, etc, can spot students who might be struggling or losing interest sooner, rather than later. Not only does this help the student, but it can also help improve retention in your online learning program.

In the challenge section, the researchers found that a top trend affecting many institutions is the lack of digital fluency among faculty. This lack of fluency can make it difficult for both professors and students to truly interact. By collecting data on your faculties digital knowledge and abilities, you can develop a more supportive environment or digital model to help your faculty in areas they need the most assistance.

As a higher education online institution you have a responsibility to you both your faculty and your students. By performing regular data analysis, you can ensure your program is a highly functioning unit across the board – policy, leadership and practice.


Author Rick J. Stern

Entrepreneur Rick Stern built Xenegrade Corp with a focus on service to educational organizations. With an MBA from Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester and over 20 years continuing education management, his experience provides valuable insight into the needs, demands, and trends of the continuing education market.

More posts by Rick J. Stern

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