The UK JISC organisation which supports universities in the development and use of new technologies has also initiated an innovation Laboratory working with data. They are investigating how the huge and diverse sources of data that are now available be better used to address and inform key policy decisions in education and training, in ways that meet both the requirements of national and regional agencies and also the local nuances and concerns of colleges serving immediate communities (Footring, 2017).
The Jisc College Analytics Lab digital modelling environment provides a means to address complex practice and policy questions using highly diverse sources of data. By engaging both with colleges, with their command of the details of learner data, and regional and national planning agencies, that need to aggregate intelligence across wider areas in order to generate policy recommendations.
In particular, Jisc are focusing on local area data to inform strategic planning and decision making. They say “presenting the information in a visual and interactive way helps leaders to communicate their vision and ideas to their funders, staff teams, students and the wider community.” However, they have found is that there is a wide variation in the effectiveness of the way in which colleges make use of the data available to them and a significant duplication of similar core processes across colleges.
The Analytics Lab environment provides a secure technical, legal and project management framework to enable the creation of new, experimental data dashboards. Participants use a mix of open and secure data from both new and established sources, to create visualisations and dashboards which address key business questions.