It is no secret that we live in a world driven by data. The insight gained from analytics underpins success in almost every industry, from strategic consumer research in commercial sales to the in-play behavioural patterns of leading men and women in sports; a great deal of importance is afforded to the reporting of “The Stats” and the stories they tell.
Effective data reporting connects an audience with a subject, providing a level of understanding that would usually only be experiential. Having worked in analysis roles across multiple fields this concept was not new to me, however prior to joining The Open University I had never considered the sheer necessity for data within education.
Analytics – The Gift and The Curse
At The Open University we have a variety of tools that offer insight into different aspects of the institution. At any moment in time, Open University staff can use data to map out the journey of prospective students, or to see the number of students attaining their sought-after qualifications. It is extremely easy to spend hours fascinated, absorbing the wealth of numbers and eye-catching dashboards on offer, using them to comprehend exactly what is happening at The Open University. We readily accept the gift of this intricate and insightful data, but so what?
Data for data’s sake
Imagine running a small business, you have an efficient analyst in your team that provides you a monthly report of all the data you need. You know the numbers inside out and could reproduce the graphs from memory with ease, there is no doubt that you are in tune with the business at an operational level, this however is only flint for the fire. A data table on its own will not drive change, nor will an aesthetically pleasing graph bring you more customers. The actions made from the insight the data provides is the spark that needed to create the fire of success.
This thought process is core to the Learning Design Team at the Open University. The Analytics4Action programme ensures Open University staff have an understanding of students on live courses, during presentation. At a distance learning institution (in which the face to face interaction between those learning and those teaching is severely reduced) this understanding is empowering. It allows for decisions to be made that can positively influence the development of a course which will in turn contribute to the development and success of our students; which naturally is the common goal for everyone here at the Open University.
In data we trust
In summary, we should always recognise the importance of accurate and well presented data, however what we should really focus on is the potential for change granted by accurate and well presented data.