Want to Improve Your Data Karma? Give Away Your Data…To Your Colleagues
Creating and sharing knowledge is at the core of the academic experience.
Higher education leaders also know that to transform the student experience, it takes collaboration behind the scenes, not just the content in classrooms. It takes an approach focused on how we guide every student toward a path to success as they define it. And it takes sharing data across departments and systems to create that single view and connect the dots throughout the student journey – surfacing critical insights that make the difference between a student in trouble and a just-in-time intervention.
That last ingredient, sharing data, is often a point of discussion on campuses. It’s one thing to say you would like a 360-degree view of students to understand how what’s happening in the tutoring center, the dorms, or how visiting the dining hall impacts their success. But getting someone to give up (or collaborate around) that data can be easier said than done.
Why can sharing knowledge – on the back end of student success systems – be so difficult?
Getting something is often seen as more pleasant than giving something away. And while your colleague isn’t really “giving away” the data they manage, they may feel that they are losing some control or leverage or becoming vulnerable, either in their role, or the team they manage. There’s often a turf war of sorts that is intertwined in the conversation about sharing data, many times cloaked by misguided ideas about privacy laws, all of which can be managed quite handily by an enterprise CRM solution.
Sometimes when I hear these conversations, I’m reminded of the maxim, “knowledge is power.” The thing is, holding on to knowledge doesn’t really give you any power. It isolates you, demoralizes people around you, and encourages shadow approaches to getting things done. It sort of makes you a hoarder, all alone in a house full of literary classics, smugly enjoying the musty smell of ancient tomes, feeling great about how much you know – and how much your friends and neighbors don’t.
We all know colleagues like this, right?
But what would happen if we changed the conversation? Having knowledge indeed brings you some power, but what’s even more powerful, and more important, is what you do with that knowledge. Instead of assessing your value based on how much you know, ask yourself: how much have I helped my colleagues and students grow?
This is what I call “data karma.”
Are you giving more than you receive? Or are you on the precipice of becoming a hoarder, forever encased in an abundant but lonely home?
Creating and sharing knowledge is at the core of the academic experience, and is something we see so brilliantly in action at every conference or workshop where we all share ideas and insights.
How can we create and share knowledge when it comes to student success?
From Data to Knowledge to Intelligence
Data sharing within higher ed institutions is the first step to creating a data environment that fully appreciates students as whole people. This is not only critical for one-on-one interventions and conversations, it also creates the foundation for machine learning models and artificial intelligence that will empower your faculty and staff to create a more impactful and equitable experience for every student. If you don’t have your data in one place, it’s hard to develop analytics, reports, and predictions around it.
I was talking with a student the other day about his experience trying to decide what classes to take. He told me a story that will not sound at all unfamiliar to you. Meeting with several advisors who provided different answers, consulting the internet, talking with peers and upperclassmen, and even…wait for it… using a Freedom of Information Act request to get data on what other students had taken in the past so he could make an informed choice.
OK, that part might be a little unusual, but think about it. He is now taking classes not based on what any professional advised but from an assessment based on what he heard from a few upperclassmen and a quick perusal of historical data – all of which exists at the school, but was not easily accessible by the people entrusted with helping him.
Think about that for a moment. And now think about it again against the backdrop in $11 billon spent on tuition toward classes that do not count toward a degree. Solving problems like this is is a moral, social, and strategic imperative for college and universities.
Trust and Transformation
What data karma implies is an increasing importance of trust. Trust that you’re getting people empowered to with complete information. So students can trust that they’re making the right choice, aligned to their own goals. And trust among faculty and staff that the institution is aligned to students, not an org chart.
This kind of problem, and so many like it, are solvable. And it’s up to us to be trailblazers and lead the way.
Here are three things you can start working on today to improve your data karma and more effectively create and share knowledge in your higher ed institution:
1. Define what trust means to you and your institution.
- What does it mean to share data responsibly?
- How can we create policies and communications around trust that are focused on helping every student succeed?
- How can we build trust with every student by knowing them personally and engaging them as a whole person?
2. Get outside the building
- Whether or not you use Education Cloud or apply design thinking principles to your team, you can recognize that great ideas can come from everywhere. Not just those directly serving students, so walk around and talk to everyone about the student journey, including perspectives from faculty and staff, but also from others on campus who may offer new perspectives. Remember, everyone on campus should be invested in student success.
- Walk from the dorms to the advising office, then to the registrar, then to the cafeteria, and then to a class. Or something like that. Walk the student journey for a day and note what you see, hear, and feel. Now map that out on a whiteboard or shared document and bring a few colleagues together to think through all of the interactions that could be of value to your students.
- Buy pizza and get students to help you help them! Show them you care and get them involved in helping to surface areas of value to them that may actually be super easy or low cost to you.
3. Have a conversation about data karma
- How can you start talking about data stewardship instead of data ownership? How can everyone is care for the data rather than hoard it?
- How can you move from a “need to know” basis to a “why do we need to restrict this” conversation?
Note: While it’s critical to make sure you are compliant with state and federal laws as well as your institution’s policies on data privacy, we recommend figuring out the requirements first and then working with legal counsel to make sure you are in compliance. Ideate first, and engage compliance advisors once you know what will help improve student outcomes.
How can you start to reward people who exemplify collaboration?
Consider posting thanks publicly to colleagues who lead the way in sharing data with colleagues to improve student success.
In the end, our success is mostly not about technology. It’s about people working together to Connect to Better. We have a huge opportunity to not just transform what’s happening on our campuses but to really begin a new era for Higher Ed.
Curious about what your peers are doing in higher ed data management, collaboration and building trust and transformation? Read about 8 colleges and universities that are transforming the student journeys with Salesforce.org Education Cloud in this helpful e-book.
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