Why Data is the Backbone of 2017 IT Priorities in Higher Education


Each year, Educause releases its Top IT Issues report, a study detailing the most pressing technology issues and trends in higher education, with input from IT leaders about why each issue is important. Interestingly, the 2017 report shows that the technology itself has begun to take a backseat to student success, evolving learning models, and the use of data.

Information security is the top issue for the second year in a row as organizations look to reduce exposure to outside threats. As we discussed in a previous post, hackers continue to target higher education IT systems that house a treasure trove of financial data, medical records, Social Security numbers and even confidential research information. Schools often struggle to balance security with the need to make resources accessible to students, faculty and others.

However, security didn’t dominate the field in the 2017 report as it did in 2016. The second-ranked IT issue is “student success and completion” as schools look to improve student retention and graduation rates by leveraging big data analytics. Increased accountability demands from government funding and accrediting agencies, and increased desire among students to quantify value and ROI, have made student success a high priority. To that end, big data analytics are being used in recruitment, academic advising processes, monitoring of student behavior and performance, and other areas to enhance the student experience.

The use of data takes center stage in three of the top 10 IT issues for 2017 in higher education. In addition to using data analytics to improve student success and help more students complete their degrees on time, data-informed decision-making is a high priority. More schools are seeking to help administrators, faculty and students use business intelligence, reporting and analytics, and make these resources accessible and relevant to institutional goals. Data management is also a top issue as schools work to get a handle on institutional data through integration, standardization, data protection and policy-based governance.

A separate survey conducted by the Helix Foundation also points out that data integration is critical to both student success and operational efficiency. By integrating and sharing data across teams, systems and administrative activities, institutions can make more informed decisions. However, the Helix survey found that just 38 percent of respondents say their marketing, enrollment management and advising teams operate in a closely integrated manner. This lack of integration, combined with an inability to determine the ROI from these activities, points to operational inefficiency.

Axiom helps higher education institutions consolidate data from multiple sources into a centralized student information system. Data entry is automated, which eliminates cumbersome, error-prone manual processes, and all data is matched and validated according to your business logic. This enables two-way communication between your student information system and third parties, prevents duplicate records, and streamlines access through a secure, web-based connection. If data integration, governance and analytics are on your list of IT priorities for 2017, contact us to schedule a demo of the Axiom solution.