Dealing with data

As we move closer to GDPR D-day the abundance of data held by Universities may be causing quite a few people to suffer a hard-to-shift headache.

I’m very familiar with the joys and sorrows of data.  During the two years prior to my joining the Royal Agricultural University I was a data analyst for the Quality Assurance Agency. My role there followed on from time working for an open data not-for-profit dealing with education data and before that many years at the University of Bath supporting institutions with research data. Data isn’t always fun but there is a lot of it about and it can be incredibly helpful in many ways.

Yesterday the Office for Students published a blog post on how use of data is central to protecting student interests. They want to be ‘a data-led regulator’, and it’s quite clear that they also want us to be ‘data-led institutions’.

We have data. We have a lot of data about our institutions, a lot of data about our students and a lot of data within our institutions. However the difficult bit is using this data to make positive change.

The Bricks and Clicks report of 2016 spelled it out:

The HE sector has always been a data-rich sector, and universities generate and use enormous volumes of data each day. However, the sector has not yet capitalised on the enormous opportunities presented by the data revolution, and is lagging behind other sectors in this area. Unless institutions and university staff are data-capable and equipped with the resources and skills to manage data well, HE will not be able to catch up and students will miss out on many potential learning and support benefits.”

myRAU analytics dashboard

Early myRAU analytics dashboard

At RAU we also have a lot of data and one of the first steps in helping us in our digital journey is pulling all this data together. Some of the most interesting data to hand that I have started to look at includes:

  • Our completed Jisc Student digital experience tracker data
  • Module feedback
  • NSS and SS scores
  • Gateway (moodle) usage data
  • Google analytics information on the RAU website and other institutional websites
  • Google analytics data on myRAU and Talis Aspire
  • myRAU dashboard
  • Internal data on prior attainment and other areas
  • pedagogic tools usage data
Early RAU Resource List (Talis Aspire) data

Early RAU Resource List (Talis Aspire) data

Locating and beginning to understand this data is a first step. In the future we will be building further dashboards and using this data to inform the digital decisions we make.