Understanding the role of data in higher education is quickly becoming a requisite and valuable skill, especially for campus instructional designers, who are often asked to be resource people to campus committees and administrators. Being able to access data and use it meaningfully and ethically makes our input much more valuable and useful to campus constituents. From evaluating instructional strategies (including ed-tech integration), to understanding broader issues like classroom climate as it relates to retention, to using powerful analytics programs to track student success, to informing program assessment and accreditation processes – these skills enable instructional designers to develop appropriate workshops and interventions that can make a significant difference on their campuses. For me personally, what started as an interest in the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL) has grown over time to a deeper appreciation of the role that data play in finding good answers and solutions to a variety of real campus issues. Along these lines, this year, I was able to provide assistance to our Enrollment Management Team, HDFS assessment teams, retention sub-committees, and faculty members interested in understanding the impact of classroom interventions, through discussions and resources about the use of data in more meaningful and productive ways. Also this year, I tried to start a data user’s interest group on campus, hoping that together, we could build a larger cadre of practitioners on campus who could access and use data in a variety of settings for decision-making within the classroom and beyond. While there are hurdles to making this learning community a reality, I have not given up hope.
In support of these goals and with the permission of my UP supervisors, I started the graduate Institutional Research certificate through World Campus a year ago as one way to build this needed skill set. This semester, I have also started a series of workshops offered through the Association for Institutional Research http://academy.airweb.org/OnlineCourses/Default.aspx. Each one in the sequence is very practical and can be used right away – For example in the first offering, some of the topics are: “Using data for program assessment or program evaluation,” “Retention and completion studies,” and “Use of data to evaluate student progress and success in developmental programs.” These are topics that we often wrestle with on campus, and as my skills grow, I hope to be a stronger resource for campus groups.
I see a definite connection between this new skill set and my role on campus, which has always been a role of service first and foremost – helping us deliver the best possible programs and instruction. Data at the service of this enterprise is a critical component and one that I would like to help expand on campus, through my ID role, creating workshops and support as needed on the campus. I feel that strengthening this skill set will be a value-added for the ID position. I look forward to sharing what I’m learning with any and all interested groups.