Too much higher ed big data gets stuck in big buckets

One expert argues the need for more software interoperability

Higher education needs a way to integrate big data from its various departments and analyze it in a meaningful way, writes Inside Higher Ed's Eric Stoller.

Advances in technology have generated a multitude of potentially useful data that sits in silos, rarely shared between departments. As schools embrace newer technology, old systems are often "patched up" to function alongside the new ones. This creates a web of communication barriers, hampering student support.

Research brief: Centralized student support services

At Duke University, for example, separate systems organize data from housing, student organizations, health education, counseling, career services, and more. At many schools, these programs originate from discrete providers, which means not all data are available within one business application. 

Student Affairs leaders are especially stymied by this issue, because they frequently need to access data spread across all of the "buckets."

Being able to pool the data would, Stoller argues, make analyzing, assessing, and implementing change much easier—not to mention simplifying things for IT personnel managing the back-end.

NYT: Big data shows big promise for revamping student support

Finding technology providers is not the problem, he says. There are both major players and smaller companies bringing great ideas and ability to the higher education sphere, but schools face challenges when trying "to find the right solution and the right provider for today and tomorrow."

Higher education needs providers to create "Swiss Army Knife" solutions that connect all aspects of student affairs, "a large number of functions that require technologies to support their services in an interconnected, longterm capacity" (Stoller, Inside Higher Ed, 12/1).

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