At Tech Trade Show, a Push to Give Colleges Better ‘Digital Intelligence’

The biggest emerging trend this year is data analytics. Company after company here promises to sell systems that provide “data dashboards” to give professors or administrators at-a-glance reports on student activity in the name of improving retention or meeting other institutional goals. Diana Oblinger, president of Educause, described it as giving colleges “digital intelligence.”

What kinds of things have colleges learned from their newfound digital intelligence?

  • One university discovered that a scholarship program it runs to bring in high-achieving students was attracting students who were the most likely to leave—to trade up and transfer to another institution after a year or two.

  • A professor teaching an anatomy course learned that students took longer to finish the homework she assigned than expected, and that many seemed stuck on the same point.

  • A library at one state university learned that tenure-track male professors were not using the library as much as tenured male professors were.

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