Charting the Path Ahead for the EDUCAUSE Core Data Service and Analytics Services

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EDUCAUSE is adopting a new vision for the analytics and benchmarking capabilities provided through the Core Data Service and other analytics resources.

curving highway
Credit: kkssr / © 2020

Just as many EDUCAUSE members have needed to respond to emerging challenges and adjust to the post-pandemic "new normal" taking shape across higher education, EDUCAUSE leadership and staff have had to reimagine who we are as an association and begin plotting new paths forward that address the ways we connect with and serve the needs of our members. The analytics and benchmarking capabilities we provide through our Core Data Service (CDS)—a flagship EDUCAUSE member resource with a nearly twenty-year history—is one area where we are charting new paths.

Perhaps now more than ever, EDUCAUSE members need access to timely, reliable data for making strategic business decisions and for comparing and connecting with peer institutions. With a focus on agility, quality, and ease of use, we on the EDUCAUSE analytics services team aim to evolve CDS to more directly meet those needs. As we adopt a new vision for this vital service, members will begin to see important changes to CDS in the months ahead:

  • CDS survey: A shorter survey launching in the fall. To support our members' need to focus on more pressing issues surrounding fall campus planning, the 2020 CDS survey will be launched in the fall instead of in the summer. Additionally, to support the member community's limited capacity to participate in important activities like the CDS survey, the EDUCAUSE analytics team is currently working with community members to significantly reduce the length of the survey. The new CDS survey will focus on a much smaller set of key metrics in an effort to minimize the burden on institutions and prioritize quality benchmarking capabilities over quantity.
  • Institutional profile: A better way to find peer institutions. The institutional profile is a new tool focused on providing users with the data they need to identify the most appropriate institutional and IT peers for benchmarking. Members will have the opportunity to document and maintain key characteristics about their institution and their IT organization within the Analytics Services Portal. Institutional profiles will be prepopulated with existing CDS and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data, where possible. This new feature will be open year-round for members to update as needed and when desired. Members at institutions with completed profiles will gain immediate access to a network of peer institutions, which is searchable by key institutional characteristics, as well as a new "peer recommender" feature developed by the EDUCAUSE analytics staff in collaboration with a member advisory group.
  • Technology profile: An easier way to connect and discuss technology solutions and implementations. The technology profile is a new tool focused on helping users identify and connect with institutions that are using specific technology solutions. As with the institutional profile, members will have the opportunity to document and maintain information about the solutions they're using for key and emerging institutional functions (e.g., SIS, LMS, CRM, virtual labs, contact tracing, etc.). The technology profile will be prepopulated with existing CDS data where possible, and this feature can be updated year-round as needed and when desired. Members at institutions with completed technology profiles will gain access to a searchable, international database of institutions and their technology solutions.
  • Capability self-assessments: Create a personalized path to improvement. In previous years, the CDS survey has included modules on digital capabilities maturity—detailed sets of survey questions allowing institutions to measure and benchmark their capabilities across a range of domain areas. Several years into providing benchmarking data for maturity indices, we continue to hear from members that they need these maturity data more for guidance on improving in areas that are important to their institution than they do for comparing their maturity with that of their peers. To respond to this need, and the need for a simpler, easier survey, CDS 2020 will not include modules on digital capabilities. Instead, our team will be focusing on developing a library of institutional self-assessment tools (see the Information Security Program Assessment Tool and the Learning Space Rating System resources for loose comparisons) that will enable members to evaluate their institution against industry practices and standards, instead of against their peers. These assessments will offer clear guidance on how to improve in areas of importance to the institution and will be available for deployment year-round and as needed through a central hub searchable by topic.

There are additional changes still on the horizon, not detailed here, including the exploration of new "user needs assessment" modules that members can deploy to students, faculty, and staff at their institution. All of these exciting new features will be made available at no charge to EDUCAUSE institutional members. And throughout the implementation of these changes, our staff will continue to listen, evaluate, and be responsive to members' needs whenever and however we can.

Our goal is for members to see the EDUCAUSE Analytics Services Portal as the first resource they go to when they need information about peer and industry trends and practices. We appreciate the insights provided by our member advisory panels to help us realize that vision, and we invite members to continue sharing feedback as we make these changes to meet member needs.

For more information and analysis about higher education IT research and data, please visit the EDUCAUSE Review Data Bytes blog as well as the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research.

Mark McCormack is Senior Director of Analytics and Research at EDUCAUSE.

Leah Lang is Director of Analytics Services at EDUCAUSE.

© 2020 Mark McCormack and Leah Lang. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.