To many people, quantitative reasoning is similar to a foreign language — asking someone without an analytics skillset to interpret regression model results can be as meaningful as asking them to read a novel in Greek. Yet, at the same time, it is equally as foreign to ask those who are trained in analytics to fully comprehend every possible theoretical impact a data model will have.

The reality is that making optimal use of sophisticated data requires the abilities of two different individuals, or teams, or offices to meaningfully communicate with one another — the data producers and the data…


I vividly remember the day I shared with colleagues that I was leaving my faculty position to join our institution’s administration. Congratulatory comments quickly turned to looks of shock — better described as betrayal — when they realized I would oversee accreditation, assessment and institutional research.

Suddenly, my decision was met with terms such as “sellout,” “dark side” and “bureaucrat.” And later still, when I told the same colleagues I’d accepted a position with an ed-tech company, the shock was even greater. Every time I read commentary pieces, such as Alex Small’s recent Inside Higher Ed article — or those…


Differing definitions in higher education

In higher education, new ideas have the potential to take off quickly. With a plethora of publications, Listservs, and professional networks, good concepts can spread from institution to institution in a matter of hours. Ideas like microlearning, competency-based assessment, student-centered learning, and immersive experiences began, at some point in time, on one campus or in the mind of one individual. Today, they have become commonplace at institutions across the globe. Yet, as each concept has been passed along and adopted on different campuses, it has been adjusted and branded for the unique needs of that institution. …


Continuous improvement is at the heart of campus efforts to strengthen performance. Yet, higher education oftentimes fails to realize how the quality of our assessment planning is the true driver of continuous improvement. While we tend to devote a significant amount of resources to document the assessment activities of campus constituents, less emphasis is given to the plan and framework we put in place for assessing, even though the former can only be as strong as the latter. …


Today, data is the currency of society, it’s everywhere — and highly desired. Corporations, politicians, and even higher education institutions collect every data point imaginable in order to make predictions regarding future behaviors and outcomes.

The fact is that every action we take in society leaves a data footprint. Google tracks how long we spend in stores and reports it back without us ever knowing. Our credit and debit cards create profiles of spending habits. And, as you all have likely learned, Amazon works with other sites to entice you to come back and complete the purchase of a recent…


When we think of traditional on-campus partnerships, writing a strategic plan is unquestionably daunting. From ensuring that the mission, vision, and core value continue to reflect the campus to reassuring that all potential campus stakeholders feel their voices are accounted for, it is no easy task to formulate, implement, and assess a plan that will guide activities for a significant period. But strategic planning is also an inspirational process — one that moves the campus toward achieving its mission and progressing in its vision.

Through an intentional, holistic process, strategic planning can successfully serve its intended purpose: providing a roadmap…


In today’s higher education environment, faculty regularly find themselves being pulled in more directions than ever. No longer debating whether they should be a sage on the stage or a guide by their students’ side, faculty now are asked to think about their roles in admissions, retention, graduation rates, and student success. Beyond the long-standing faculty triad of teaching, research, and service, the all-hands-on-deck approach to finding students, keeping them enrolled, and then assuring they become productive graduates all occupy faculty time. Thus, any additional request from an administrator has the potential to be met with skepticism.

Requests falling under…


Recruiting Students Who Will Thrive

Enrollment managers play a critical role on every campus. While the outside world may focus much of its energy on faculty effectiveness, graduation rates, and career placement, a campus can’t survive without the ability to enroll or retain students. Especially in today’s era of lowered budget allocations and tuition discounting, the pressure is on to continually meet numbers. If a student leaves, he or she must be replaced. For enrollment managers, the goal is simple: use data to admit students who are likely to thrive and then use more data to help assure they are retained.

Setting the scene

As the president of…


What happens when you use your data in a more proactive way? When, in addition to fulfilling the requirements of external stakeholders, you leverage the information to help your campus thrive? By operating beyond accreditation and other standards, campuses can set the stage for meaningful improvement. In fact, examining the many issues addressed in today’s standards can help institutions understand what these standards reveal about the future of higher education.

Various cross-pressures on campus routinely compete for the attention of institutional stakeholders. Faculty, staff, board members, politicians, taxpayers, employers, parents, and students all ask questions and make requests. These then influence the decisions institutions make to help ensure each student — and ultimately, the entire campus — succeeds. Yet when it comes to shaping the processes and policies on any given campus, regional accrediting bodies often play a more pivotal role than any other entity. Rather than focusing on the standards solely to meet compliance requirements, campuses should see them as an opportunity to explore more innovative approaches.

Consider the…


Tell me if this sounds familiar:

A campus staff or faculty member heads to a conference and hears a great idea. Once they return to campus, they want to quickly combine data gathered from a campus-based survey to create a series of visualizations in some form of dashboard. After determining who owns the necessary data, they realize it needs to be extracted. The data is likely to come in various formats — perhaps some in Excel, some in SPSS, and some in a campus-wide data warehouse. After enrolling the help of Institutional Research to clean the data, the researcher will quality-check the holistic data set to…

Will Miller

Data guy. Higher ed administrator. PhD from Akron in urban studies and public affairs. Fan of sports, politics, and the Florida life.

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