By Phil Richards, Chief Innovation Officer, Jisc.
So far perhaps big data and analytics are not shaping a wiser society: the way many people experience analytics is when they see personalised adverts for things they have just bought, and are not likely to want to buy again so soon! By analogy, using analytics to present more online resources for things that have just been learnt is not so useful, but as the predictive nature of analytics gets smarter — so that people are presented with what they want to buy next, or learn next — then I think that will assist a wiser society.
From our point of view, Jisc’s traditional strengths lie at each end of the modern digital stack: at one end, our data traversing Janet network, helping world-class research and discoveries such as the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in CERN; at the other, modern digital content, data and metadata around academic publications and online learning materials.
As the person leading Jisc’s R&D activities, one of my key objectives, while protecting these two strengths, is to fill the gap in the middle — particularly around applications and analytics.
We are making positive steps in this area through our co-design process, consulting with over 1,000 key UK stakeholders to find out the teaching and research problems they are facing and coming up with digital solutions, but are always eager to learn from contemporaries in other countries.
« Our co-design challenge From prospect to alumnus is taking a new look at information systems to support the full student lifecycle »
It was of particular interest, therefore, to recently receive a senior delegation from Spain’s higher education (HE) technological consortium SIGMA, to see how they had gone about bridging the gap with great success, and learn how both organisations are responding in similar ways to challenges in the sectors they serve.
For example, our co-design challenge From prospect to alumnus is taking a new look at information systems to support the full student lifecycle, spanning the journey from school, college and university into the workplace, and even topping-up learning during one’s career. Here, there are strong parallels with SIMGA SIS, its student information system to support lifelong learning.
Likewise, our learning analytics challenge and business intelligence project in partnership with UK statistics agency HESA, has much in common with SIGMA OA, in its aim to provide added value monitoring and reporting of student data. Finally, SIGMA’s Software Factory adopts a similar approach to harnessing student creativity to Jisc’s annual Summer of Student Innovation competition.
It was encouraging to see SIGMA responding to the big data challenge in similar ways and give further validation of the work we’re doing.