Not familiar with “educational intelligence?” That’s because Eduventures just coined the term to define an approach to addressing the key challenges facing institutions today. Among those challenges is the call for greater accountability, outcomes, and access, not to mention its impact on the broader strategic priorities, financial mandates, and institutional mission to which you are beholden.

Eduventures defines educational intelligence as, “leveraging data at multiple points across the student lifecycle to make intelligent decisions to positively impact student outcomes.”

Educational intelligence is informed by relationships and patterns in large volumes of data gathered from various technologies and data repositories across campus at different moments in the student lifecycle, from pre-inquiry through post-graduation. Given the emergence of a data-driven culture and the need for a currency to support decision-making across the student lifecycle, educational intelligence is an approach that requires interoperability to connect siloed data assets. This is more than business intelligence to inform processes or predictive analytics to inform student success interventions. This is larger than information gathered by any single department or from any one data source. This is a holistic view of your data throughout the student lifecycle, which will not only impact the overall student experience, but also help you meet your institutional objectives.

Those of you that come from outside of education might wonder how this differs from similar approaches to creating data-driven cultures in other industries. The answer is: Education is not just any other industry. Education is not a means to an end, but a means and an end. Education has a customer that is also the product. Education has top-down and bottom-up goals that change by stakeholder. Education is beholden to students, parents, faculty members, administrators, governments, employers, and the broader public. To possess educational intelligence, you need to optimize business processes to meet revenue goals and concurrently improve student outcomes to serve the public good.

Educational intelligence is more than a new term; it is a new way of thinking that will inform the future of higher education leadership. It promotes leadership that relies on Chief Data Officers (CDOs), integrates enterprise-wide technologies to enable effective data-driven decision-making across departments, and positively impacts the bottom line, institutional mission, and student outcomes.

Educational intelligence allows key stakeholders across the institution, including faculty, staff, and administrators, to break out of their silos and come together in support of student outcomes. While the data may now be available, the set of metrics and key performance indicators that are collected, assessed, and defined may be vastly different at each stage of the student lifecycle and for different stakeholders. Educational intelligence can include improving an institution’s overall retention rate for a specific program of study, an individual student’s personal academic outcomes, a faculty member’s effectiveness in delivery of instruction, and an employer’s ability to hire the best-fit student, all under the auspices of consciously improving the outcomes of the educational process.

So what questions should you ask to relate educational intelligence to your institution? While every institution has a unique set of stakeholders, technologies, and processes, the following three categories offer a framework for the conversation:

  1. Data – It is time for the fall of the data wall. From ongoing interviews with institutional leaders who are thinking more broadly across the student lifecycle, it is abundantly clear that everyone is thinking more holistically about the value of data in breaking down institutional silos. Provosts are working with CIOs and CTOs to ensure that student demographic and financial data that is collected for enrollment management can improve student retention and that non-cognitive motivational data that advisors collect about enrolled students can predict their propensity to give as alumni. Data (much of which is locked up in the SIS, LMS, and other systems) is the foundational building block that must be unlocked in order to drive insight and action.Questions to ask: Where is your data? How can you make it more portable? How can you make the right data accessible in order to derive insights that make sense for your institution?
  2. Insight – There is nothing so terrible as data without insight. While data is a necessary element to create change, there is not a lack of data, but a lack of actionable insights. The right data in the wrong hands or at the wrong time is meaningless. It is imperative that institutions thoughtfully leverage available data with the help of predictive analytics and business intelligence. This will ultimately result in the right actions emerging from the right data.Questions to ask: What are the problems you are trying to solve? What the questions you are trying to answer? What are the insights that will enable you to take action?
  3. Action – The fruit of the action is important. Ghandi may have believed that the action was more important than the fruit, but in education student outcomes are the most valuable currency. The outcomes conversation is front and center in higher education because we now have the ability (albeit only in pockets at leading-edge institutions) to track data from the moment it is generated to understand its relationship with and impact on student outcomes. This change in approach will be the key to transforming educational intelligence from a philosophical framework into an impactful conversation in higher education in the years to come.Questions to ask: What actions should you take to solve the problems that you are facing? What stakeholders need to be involved in the conversation? What innovative leaders will have the courage to stand alone in the face of adversity to take this holistic approach?

Are you already leveraging educational intelligence at your institution? Are these questions that you are grappling with on a regular basis? We want to hear from you to learn more about how you are putting educational intelligence to work on your campus with data, insights, and actions. Contact the author of this Wake-Up Call, Senior Analyst Max Woolf, to share how you are using this type of thinking.

Eduventures will continue to promote this conversation as we cover this topic in more detail and highlight innovative institutions that are leading this discussion. Join us at the 2015 International Online Learning Consortium Conference to continue the discussion on this topic, and stay tuned for our series of reports covering the impact of educational intelligence on retention.