It was only a matter of time before data-mining technology arrived on college campuses. But rather than go into the benefits and downfalls of this new approach to understanding students’ habits & behaviors, (it’s described in the recent New York Times article “Big Data on Campus,”) I’d like to point out that really valuable data already exists on many college campuses.
It may not be the kind that tells you in real-time when a student drops a class or turns in his or her homework, but it gives colleges and universities valuable insight into students’ behaviors, values and goals. And it doesn’t require the use of elaborate technology or complex software algorithms. Further, many schools already have access to this data.
Sure, this new technology can track individual progress, which is impressive, but national surveys tools offer a complete picture of a school’s student body. Survey data can illuminate all sorts of interesting facts about an institution’s student body, including how well their students are adjusting to their coursework demands; if they feel a strong sense of belonging on campus; if they had considered dropping out of college; if they went into college expecting to switch majors, etc.
Many schools have this data, and part of our job is to help schools make use of that data on their campus so that it translates into actionable changes and improvements on campus.
So when we think about adopting these new technologies, let’s not forget the tools that we currently have in place that can do a lot to ensure positive student outcomes, improve retention efforts, programming and campus climate.