Enabling data certainty

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Data Matters 2021 is happening next week and it isn’t too late to book your place at the conference. The Data Matters event was going to be held in May 2020 in central London. However, no surprise that we decided to cancel the event. We did consider running it online, however due to the timing, the pressure that our prospective audience was under and translating an in-person conference to an online event quickly, we decided that we would reschedule the event to January 2021.

We did think by July that we might even be able to hold the event in-person, but the realities of the world hit back. So the decision was made to still hold the conference in January 2021, but build it as a holding event and run it online.

The existing theme was very much about putting in the (data) foundations to deliver the vision of Education 4.0 that Jisc was promoting. We could have run with that theme again, but the landscape had changed so much that we created a new more general theme on the uncertain future.

The UK education sector is moving towards an uncertain future. The sector needs to transform to meet the requirements of industry 4.0 and student expectations. With COVID-19 having such a huge impact on the operation of the higher education sector now and in the foreseeable future, the entire student experience has been and will be disrupted by the restrictions in place to mitigate the risks of the virus. This has impacted on the use of formal and informal learning spaces, as well as an increasing reliance on online platforms and digital content.

The sector is facing real challenges in delivering a quality student experience during a time of uncertainty. There are difficulties in supporting students who are learning remotely and online, away from campus. There will be further challenges as students return to campus as lockdown eases, vaccine has an impact on infection rates and universities move from a remote model of delivery to a blended model that needs to reflect what enhances and improves the learning experience.

Universities will want to understand where, what and how their students are learning and what interventions they can make that will have a positive impact, and add certainty to the student experience in the face of uncertainty. They will also want to avoid acting unethically and within the legal constraints of GDPR.

The pandemic and resulting lockdown has also impacted on student recruitment, domestic as well as international. Universities have a responsibility to support all students to thrive and achieve, and it is increasingly recognised that students’ experiences are very different depending on a large number of factors, including background and personal circumstances, type and subject of their course. The mental health and wellbeing of students is an increasing concern for universities and sector bodies.

The role of data, analytics, data modelling, predictive analytics and visualisation will be a core aspect of this uncertain future, but the uncertainty will bring new challenges for the sector in how they utilise the potential of data. Public scepticism about algorithms and data use is creating new ethical and legal challenges in the gathering, processing and interpretation of data.

Digital is core to the UK’s higher education sector, enhancing and creating efficiencies across all aspects of the student experience and supporting staff in delivering excellence.

Book your place on the Data Matters 2021 Conference.

Also see this blog post by me on the Jisc website.

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