Study Reveals Hurdles in Use of Technology and Information on College Campuses

Lisa Petrides, Ph.D., President, ISKME, 650-728-3322 (ext. 21), <a href=""></a>

HALF MOON BAY, Calif., February 18, 2004 – At a time when college and university leaders say there is a growing need for information technology to improve campus decision making, save costs, and support better student learning outcomes, an in-depth study of how colleges actually use technology on campus reveals how far institutions need to go to make expensive technology systems a true asset.

The study, based on observations, interviews, and surveys of administrators, staff, and faculty at a multi-campus community college district in California, indicates that the vast majority of faculty and staff are not supported or encouraged to make data queries from their desktops, share or mine information, or make calculations that could lead to improved programs or outcomes.

“The nation’s colleges and universities are information rich and knowledge poor,” says Lisa Petrides, founding director of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) and principal author of the report. “Administrators have at their fingertips the kind of data and information that could help more students succeed in college, provide better services, and save taxpayer dollars. But that information is centralized within a small decision-making enclave. It is not put in the hands of the faculty and staff who are in position to make improvements where they matter most.”

In fact, the study says, when faculty and staff do put data and information to use, it is often done by circumventing the campuses large computerized data system, resulting in significant duplication of effort that is costly to the institution. Campuses also provide little support and few incentives for educators and staff to tap into rich data resources, the report says.

The report – The Democratization of Data in Higher Education: a Case Study of the Challenges that Institutions Face as They Seek to Improve Student Success – is based on 18 months of research on how information technology is used across a 45,000-student, multi-campus, suburban community college district in California.

The report shows a rapidly growing demand for data and information at all levels of decision-making. Administrators say they rely on data to assess the success of particular programs and remedial interventions to determine where best to invest limited resources. Department heads, faculty, and staff want more data and information to identify and help address student performance differences in the classroom. Faculty and staff are interested in accessing data available to effectively match students with appropriate services and interventions, particularly non-traditional college goers struggling to stay in school.

But as the need for data increases, the most useful information is not readily available to key members of the campus community. The majority of respondents (54 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that “it takes a great deal of effort to get the data” they need to be effective in their jobs, and a significant percentage of faculty (28 percent) and administrators (21 percent) say it is “nearly impossible” to get the basic data they need to be effective.

The report urges colleges and universities to invest more in training and support to ensure greater “democratization of data” on campus. It also calls on college leaders to establish policies – including new rewards for increased data use and information sharing, investigations of factors affecting student success, and sanctions for programs that fail to meet their objectives – to create an organizational culture that rewards inquiry and improvement.

Copies of the report are available in PDF format on the Web site, or by calling (650) 712-9448.