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Data providers on tackling the data silo problem

University Business, April 2018

Are data silos a big problem in higher ed, and what are the most important reasons for taking them down?

“It’s common to see a divide between interests in graduation and retention on the one hand, and teaching and learning on the other.  These are complementary perspectives, yet many times they are siloed despite a shared goal: student success. Benefits to taking down these data silos include: increased coordination between faculty and advisors in reaching at-risk students; awareness of how the digital classroom experience affects persistence; and a more holistic view of student success.”

—Timothy Harfield, senior product marketing manager, Blackboard Analytics


Link to main story: Connecting data silos in higher ed


“In the area of student success, a small handful of systems hold a great deal of information about which students struggle. Organizing data that schools already have—and presenting it in an actionable way—can give student success personnel an important advantage.”

 —Kimberley Munzo, president/CEO, AspirEDU

“The problem is not data-possessiveness. Too often when asking educators charged daily with advancing student success for basic data, like college-wide completion rates, we get sincere ‘wish we knew’ answers. Further, there appears to be a ‘data desert’ between add/drop period, early retention and any re-enrollment beyond freshman year. Converting data silos into a continuum across the student life cycle, with one data set, makes the higher ed business model sustainable.”

—Elena M. Cox, founder/CEO, vibeffect

“Data silos are an enormous problem for universities, costing IT departments valuable time and resources. This is especially true between security and IT operations teams, which too often only talk when problems occur. However, universities sit on a treasure trove of data waiting to be unlocked. Schools that are able to break data silos have potential to find data synergy that can drive increased security, efficiency and more proactive strategies across the institution.”

—Kevin Davis, vice president for the public sector, Splunk

“Higher education has been facing increased scrutiny and downward pressures for the past decade. This has been forcing strategic analysis to take place, requiring institutions to break down traditional silos and connect the data dots between admissions, enrollment, student success and institutional finance. Only then can they work together to develop strategies to improve the performance of the institution.”

—Darren Catalano, CEO, HelioCampus

“Silos in any organization cause issues, especially in higher education. The main concern we observe is around student life and wellbeing. Institutions need a holistic view from multiple data sources across their campuses. This data helps detect issues before they occur—to promote the quality of learning and life preparation that they offer. Missing this ultimately affects the brand of the entire school, not just one department, which is socially and financially costly.”

—Tim Lyons, chief marketing officer, QSR International

“The worst problem is not that it makes the data analysis harder, it’s that people just won’t even try to perform the analysis. When the data is scattered, it takes a concerted effort to even see that it could possibly come together. You have to bridge those gaps to see the connections that help the student and the university.”

—James Cousins, senior statistical analyst, Rapid Insight

“Data silos are pervasive across departments: admissions, student information, housing, budgets. Some is possessive due to private student information but, oftentimes, people underestimate the broader impact of their data. Unlocking these silos can influence real change in the ability to understand at-risk students. Not all risk is academic; sometimes it’s a variety of factors from incompatible roommates to insufficient aid.”

—Robert Dolan, Jr., market segment director for public sector, Tableau

“Data silos are a huge problem, and can hinder student success. Seven out of 10 students report concerns about finances, but what that means at a granular level lives in the data and the details. It's tough to drive financial literacy and understanding without a full 360-view of the student. Financial aid offices have some of the richest, most diverse student data, but it's also the most regulated and controlled. Anonymized, aggregated data stays in compliance with federal regulations, but can be time-consuming to get to. It's a start, and well worth it.

—Amy Glynn, vice president of financial aid and community, CampusLogic


Nancy Mann Jackson is an Alabama-based writer and a frequent contributor to UB.

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