GeneralHigher Education

How Will Data Help Higher-Ed Through Covid-19?

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Posted By Brian Russell

In the recent weeks, the threat of COVID-19 has swept across the world. Hundreds of colleges and universities have closed their doors for on-site classes to students and faculty. This has forced a virtual learning environment on all who attend. In the short-term, class disruptions will be minimal. Lectures can take place over the web, resources can be housed in the cloud, and group discussions can take place in any one of the new collaboration applications that are available. The long-term impacts are yet to be defined, but the current situation could have far reaching changes. This can be a great time for education institutions to gather data to understand how they are performing.

Many of the changes that will appear in higher education already exist for some education companies. Online learning has gained momentum since the early 2000s. Over the past 5 years, we have seen the emergence of the second wind of the MOOCs, or massive online open courses. For a fraction of the ever-rising cost of higher education in the U.S., MOOCs provide access to quality education and skills development. Various universities have adopted add-on MOOC programming to augment their classic academic structure in the past few years. Some schools like Arizona State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Western Governors University stand out as examples for institutions that made early investments in online learning and have found a way to be successful with it.

Some schools have used online learning to become more efficient, like University of Central Florida, who had declining state funding after 2008 for 5 straight years. The online program at UCF was able to help them manage a 20% increase in enrollment with just a 4.7% increase in faculty.
Faculty were still teaching in the classroom, but they could also teach online or in a mixed environment.

Higher education institutions will find a new balance, transitioning from running on a model with all courses taught in person to a mix between virtual and physical collaboration. This may impact some of the other revenue streams that these institutions rely on such as housing and meal plans. In the end, this may be an opportunity to sell off assets and reinvest in what makes these institutions exist: delivering education and driving a future return for their students. Metrics like attendance, grades, and interactions tend to hold more weight in K-12 organizations, but this may change over the next few months. Higher Education will be able to tap into the number of meetings and logins of students to measure interaction to specific courses and content. These, among other data points, will serve to guide institutions on how they can reshape their business model in the wake of this global pandemic.

Brian Russell has been a Solution Engineer at Tableau for a little over 4 years. Brian first encountered Tableau while working as a Financial Analyst who was buried in the world of spreadsheets, v-lookups, and pivot tables (which he blames for the early graying of his hair). Utilizing a trial of Tableau Desktop, Brian was able to cut lead times for report building significantly and present new business insights to his executive leadership. He’s been a part of the Tableau team ever since, working with organizations in Higher Ed, K-12, and the commercial sector to help people see and understand their data like never before! *Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer*

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