Application Development

Solving the Data Challenge is the Answer to Education’s Innovation Test

Most educational institutions today are merely surviving with digital tools, when they could be thriving through data-driven innovation.

Lenore Adam

May 07, 2020

Well before the advent of the Covid-19 crisis, digital tools were making their way into education. But fast-forward to the pandemic crisis, and it’s clear that the $600 billion-plus higher education industry must shift to an approach many have resisted: remote learning.

Many initiatives, particularly in higher ed, have fallen short for a variety of reasons—lack of investment, nascent digital fluency among faculty, and more importantly, a lack of modern IT and data infrastructure that support educational business agility and enables a pathway for innovation.

Every organization today is a data company—even in higher education. In order to provide a better learning experience for students, it requires educational institutions to rethink how they build and deliver innovation using data.

Toward a Data-Driven Student Experience

California State University is one institution that is seeing a data-first approach to digital transformation pay off. In an initiative that began well before the pandemic, CSU made a massive shift towards digital by investing in an overhaul of its IT systems for its 23 campuses across the state. The goal? To eliminate data silos and make its massive IT system accessible and actionable across a highly distributed campus system.

“Since it [data] was stored in so many different locations and repositories, one of my first jobs was to figure out how to bring all of that information together fast enough and flexibly enough from 23 different campuses every single day,” Brenden Aldrich, the first-ever Chief Data Officer at CSU, said in an interview with EdTech Magazine. “We wanted to rationalize that data and begin to capitalize on it — to make use of it, to help make better decisions and to help ensure our students are supported as much as possible.”

The university began the shift towards digital with its Common Management System (CMS) to deliver improvements in everything from student enrollment, management, scheduling, and registration to human resources, financials, and employee compensation. They brought in Delphix as the driving force behind the hybrid cloud migration project, extending its infrastructure using AWS to enable greater agility to support the campuses. As a result, data teams were able to dramatically improve IT productivity and quickly deliver student-facing applications and services.

Leveraging Data-Driven Insights to Improve Students’ Success

With access to all of this information, CSU university leaders could even leverage these insights to determine whether a student posed a “high risk” of dropping out.

Today, understanding the role of data in improving the student experience is key to better decision-making for educators. Most institutions are merely surviving with digital tools, when they could be thriving through digital innovation. Whether students return to campus in the fall or not, data is key to powering organizations’ most pressing initiatives, from migration to the cloud, complying with data privacy regulations, to transforming the student experience.

Want to learn more about California State University’s digital journey? Check out our in-depth case study.