The educational landscape has drastically shifted across the country. Challenges that have surfaced for both higher education and K-12 are unique to their scope but still share a common thread. The impact of a global pandemic, from early stages of onset to preventive measures for future protection, have brought a new set of unknowns.
Through it all, one universal constant that has underlined all schools, colleges, and universities is that of their primary focus – the safety of their students and faculty. Each has already put in an exhaustive level of dedicated hours to successfully close out this school year and plan for the future. As they work through the new agenda of challenges, solutions to implement, and an overarching shift in mindset for fall planning and procedures, we empathize knowing the work has just begun.
Let’s examine some of the current and anticipated data challenges that surround the coming months – the major pain points faced by K-12 and higher education. We’ll discuss actionable and attainable steps that can be taken by those who are working hard to ensure success remains achievable for all students.
Tracking Progress from Afar
One of the most apparent obstacles that has proven to be taxing across K-12 is that of tracking progress and student performance. Not only does a now virtually taught experience present a direct challenge, navigating a territory that is explicitly new makes it that much more difficult. Without past experience to serve as a reference, schools must look to each other for guidance, and within their own infrastructure for what will work best for their student population and the district at large.
In order to eliminate the time and resources that would be spent compiling data to best represent progress and performance during remote learning, schools have turned to system integration and dashboard solutions. Through business intelligence, schools can integrate their SIS with State Testing data to provide a complete focused picture of their school or school districts student performance. By combining data from district-wide sources, schools can have a more accurate and inclusive gauge on tracking student progress over time. This clarity will also set the foundation for developing and re-assessing metrics tracked during future remote-learning, to ensure success is measured with the right factors in mind.
An additional benefit of the dashboard solution is the ability to drill down into data points as specific as needed. For example, this will allow them to hone in on the information of a specific student and their progress, needs, at-home learning environment (e.g. Internet access, guardians available), etc. While teaching may be distant, learning can remain personalized.
Administration Handling Multiple Solutions at a Time
For most administrators, tracking student data is rarely limited to just one software program or student information system. Nowadays schools are managing countless platforms to meet a variety of needs, while trying to bring in data from other sources (state testing data) and integrate them into one holistic picture for administrators and teachers. This allows educators to understand where their students are succeeding, and where they’re struggling or need extra support. Whether it be absence monitoring, tracking progress with learning platforms, technology usage rates, monitoring social-emotional support (tracking office visits, interventions, and SEL-related data), hiring and recruiting programs, online payment and financial management solutions. There is often a long list of strategic items needing oversight and attention which can already be overwhelming to an administrative team, let alone trying to do so with virtual learning.
With the shift to online education, it is in each school’s best interest to use their administration’s valuable time efficiently and shift to one comprehensive dashboard solution. For a complete data-driven reporting solution, it would involve securely connecting each data source utilized by the administrative and faculty teams. This not only eliminates the time-consuming strains that come with trying to manually sync siloed systems, it also brings data forward in its best light. Redundant data is mitigated, technical onboarding is funneled into learning one system, reporting becomes automated, and data is shown through easy-to-understand graphs and charts.
Future Scenario Planning – Contingent on Unknowns
Regardless their size, every college, university, or specialized institution finds themselves in the same position when it comes to unknown circumstances surrounding their future practices. Given the financial crisis and economic impact resulting from the pandemic, there is no definitive roadmap for what to expect in the months to come.
Nonetheless, these past few months of proactive contingency planning has been top priority for higher education, taking multiple factors into consideration as time evolves. Developing the resource landscape and investment for what courses will look like is one thing. However, aligning faculty capabilities, allocating budgets, repackaging financial aid, and accounting for performance-critical metrics are all top of mind.
That being said, the scope of forecasted preparedness for higher education must be focused on ensuring long-term sustainability while simultaneously controlling for tighter margins of error. This means having a strong gauge on all likely scenarios, even if metrics such as yield and retention rates remain more uncertain. It means balancing enrollment and net tuition goals while keeping focus on leading principles like equity and access, both for those enrolled and those applying. Taking the step beyond individual reporting, an integrated BI solution can allow institutions to perform what-if analysis across the metrics they need to see correlated. Known as Interactive Intelligence at iDashboards, this dynamic capability gives higher education dashboards the power to improve transparency of critical data and deliver insights that define actionable targets.
Providing Continuous Informed Communications
With internal strategy planning comes the need for higher education institutions to uphold their responsibilities of remaining supportive and accountable to the information they deliver. External communications with students, parents, and the entire campus community are imperative to bridging the gap between decision-makers and those impacted by the decisions. They must be thoughtful, built on accurate, timely, and complete data, and meet the standards they’ve set for their mission at large.
Continuous data visibility into current standings keeps institutions organized, provides a single-source of truth for faculty, and instills reassurance to those looking for answers and support. As colleges and universities look towards a healthy and safe future, maintaining engagement through the right shared information will creating lasting impact in a world that has become so virtual.