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Applying Big Data in Higher Education

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As technology marches ever onwards, it is imperative that large institutions keep up with it. If sectors like higher education fall behind in preparedness when it comes to current technological necessities, it’s the people who invest their futures into these institutions that suffer, as well as the industries that potential graduates want to work within.

One of the largest problems facing higher education now is managing the exponential growth of data. Institutions are dealing with a huge increase in the rate of internet-connected devices on campus due to the BYOD nature of studying, so the deluge of new data is more than older IT infrastructures can handle.

Colleges and universities have a continuous stream of inflowing data from all directions through platforms such as online applications, online classroom exercises and testing, social media, blogs, student surveys and many more. It doesn’t stop there, with an additional surge from public data such as online student, professor and curriculum performance benchmarking growing in popularity; this contributes to the strain on infrastructures.

Established software solutions, many of which date back to the 70s, were not designed to cope with the levels of data that exist today. While higher education institutes still rely on these older infrastructures, they will continue to find themselves buried under the mountain of data that they face now. They need to embrace the idea of big data and build new systems to accommodate it, or fall behind in the league tables as they direct too much effort and spending into maintaining inadequate infrastructures.

Here are some ideas to help take institutions off the defensive when it comes to handling data:

Pinpoint problems areas – a good starting place to work on is to find out which areas in your operations are the most data-intensive. You can focus your solutions on this area and familiarise yourself with the process. When one problem is solved, it is easier to ride off that victory and begin to snowball into bigger areas.

Focus on your desired outcome – when undertaking an analytics-based journey, you need to keep your end result in mind. Before you begin planning in earnest for a strategy to meet big data demands, you need to realise what it is you’re aiming to achieve with this – are you searching for new revenue, easier recruitment, better student satisfaction, or something else? Figure out your goal and build your plan around it.

Foster a pro-data culture – it can be tempting to try and discard seemingly extraneous data when trying to keep on top of it, but the problems with this are the fact that you never know when a certain piece of data may become useful, and that it can be more expensive to get rid of data than it is to keep it. You need to create and maintain a culture where data analytics become an integral part of business decisions.

Look for the right partner – In order to build your own resources to be able to create and operate big data analytics workflows, you will first need the help of a specialist to begin cleaning up your infrastructure. Find a partner that is future-ready and able to work with you to build processes that will stand the test of time.

By moving from outdated technology towards new tools, higher education institutions can become efficient big data managers. This will help set them apart from other institutions that still rely on older infrastructures, attracting forward-minded students and professionals that will in in turn bolster the institution’s place when it comes to league tables, research, resources and numerous other areas. Preparing to handle big data is not a problem, but a challenge that can be readily met with the right partner.

Here at Dell we aim to prepare the education sector for the future, applying our solutions to transform learning institutions into future-ready, tech friendly places that deliver the very best in education. Our education data management is one of our cornerstones when it comes to facilitating excellent learning, but we have a whole host of other solutions to help bring your institution into the digital landscape. Find out more here.


John Bailey

John Bailey

John Bailey is the UK Sales Director at Dell for Education. John and his team are passionate about improving student outcomes in Universities, Colleges and Schools through the use of technology. Dell aim to prepare the education sector for the future, and are leading the way in applying solutions to transform learning institutions into future-ready, technology friendly places that enable the delivery of the very best in educational outcomes.

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Tags: Education, Future Ready, Industries