Has Analytics Fallen Into the Trough of Disillusionment?

Co-Authoered with Mike Sharkey

In direct contradiction to Betteridge’s Law, we believe the answer is yes. Analytics in higher education is in the trough of disillusionment.

The trough of disillusionment refers to a specific stage of Gartner’s Hype Cycle. It is that moment when, after a rapid build up leading to a peak of inflated expectations, a technology’s failure to achieve all that was hoped for results in disillusionment. Those who might benefit from a tool perceive a gap between the hype and actual results. Some have rightly pointed out that not all technologies follow the hype cycle, but we believe that analytics in higher education has followed this pattern fairly closely.

READ FULL STORY >> http://er.educause.edu/blogs/2016/11/has-analytics-fallen-into-the-trough-of-disillusionment

Climbing out of the Trough of Disillusionment: Making Sense of the Educational Data Hype Cycle

In 2014, I wrote a blog post in which I claimed (along with others) that analytics had reached a ‘peak of inflated expectations.’ Is the use of analytics in higher education now entering what Gartner would call the ‘trough of disillusionment’?

In 2011, Long and Siemens famously argued that big data and analytics represented “the most dramatic factor shaping the future of higher education.”  Since that time, the annual NMC Horizon Report has looked forward to the year 2016 as the year when we would see widespread adoption of learning analytics in higher education.  But as 2016 comes to a close, the widespread adoption of learning analytics still lies on the distant horizon.  Colleges and universities are still very much in their infancy when it comes to the effective use of educational data.  In fact, poor implementations and uncertain ROI have led to what Kenneth C. Green has termed ‘angst about analytics.’

As a methodology, the Gartner Hype Cycle is not without criticism.  Audrey Watters, for example, takes issue with the fact that it is proprietary and so ‘hidden from scrutiny.’  Any proprietary methodology is in fact difficult to take seriously as a methodology.  It should also be noted that the methodology is also improperly named, as any methodology that assumes a particular outcome (i.e. that assumes that all technology adoption trends follow the same patters) is unworthy of the term.  But as a heuristic or helpful model, it is helpful way of visualizing analytics adoption in higher education to date, and it offers some helpful language for describing the state of the field. Read more

Using Analytics to Meet the Needs of Students in the 21st Century

Below is excerpted from a keynote address that I delivered on November 8, 2016 at Texas A&M at Texarkana for its National Distance Education Week Mini-Conference


Right now in the US, nearly a quarter of all undergraduate students — 4.5 million — are both first generation and low income.

Of these students, only 11% earn a bachelors degree in under 6 years. That’s compared to the rest of the population, which sees students graduate at a national rate of 55%. What this means is that 89% of first generation, low income students stop out, perpetuating a widespread pattern of socio-economic inequality.

Since 1970, bachelors degree attainment among those in the top income quartile in the US has steadily increased from 40.2% to 82.4 in 2009. By contrast, those in the bottom two income quartiles have seen only slight improvements: under an 8 point increase for the bottom two quartiles combined. In the US, a bachelors degree means a difference in lifetime earnings of more than 66% compared to those with only high school. Read more

Twitter, Smug Intellectualism, Trolls, and Philosophical Charity

Yesterday, I witnessed an exchange on Twitter that continues to bother me.

In the interest of citing sources and providing evidence, my first inclination is to embed the public conversation here. But, especially in this current climate, citing a personality in association with a controversial piece of content frequently serves to distract from the specific issues at hand. It is also not my intention to ‘call out’ any particular individual, but rather to use the situation as an opportunity to think through some issues related to philosophical charity, social media, and anti-intellectualism. Read more

Death is a Fact of Life

“Phamous is dead”

Those were the first words I heard my wife say as she entered the house after morning chores. She had obviously been crying.

It had been a tragic accident, most details of which are still a mystery. Strong and magnificent though they may be, horses are also surprisingly delicate. Like gigantic toddlers, horses also have an uncanny ability to get themselves into trouble and in the most unusual ways.

This was not the first time I have been exposed to equine death. A year or so ago, I witnessed an accident during an event on cross country.  I was called to assist in restraining the horse as veterinarians were faced with no other humane alternative than to give it the ‘pink juice.’ It was hard. I cried. Read more

Please stop putting images in your email signature

This is something that has bothered me for a long time. It’s time I spoke up about it.

I like email signatures. I like having a person’s contact information and title at the ready. But email signatures should be simple. There are three reasons why no one should ever put images in their email signature, no matter how tempting it might be:

  1. It’s Wasteful – images are attachments. No matter how cute and insignificant they may look in a single email, they still serve to unnecessarily bloat the size of your message. Even as the cost of disk storage continues to decrease according to Kryder’s Law, that’s no excuse to unnecessarily inflate the size of your email message, as well as the size of every subsequent forward and reply.
  2. It’s Ineffective – I have yet to see any evidence that images in email signatures ‘work.’ If they contain text, they are unsearchable. Within an organization, it might be tempting for marketing departments to encourage employees to use branded image to promote a product or event, but individual employees have a tendency to poorly execute marketing’s best intentions. Worse yet, people don’t tend to touch their email signatures for a long time, which means that signature images are frequently off brand and out of date. The result is not an effective marketing strategy. To the contrary, the results are often quite embarrassing.
  3. It’s Inefficient – for me, this is really the crux of the matter. It goes back to the fact that images are attachments. How often have I searched for an email from someone in order to find a particular attachment, only to find that EVERY message from that person contains an attachment? In the absence of being able to use ‘attachment/no-attachment’ as a search criterion, I have to either build a more complex query (based on attachment size, for example), or else go through individual emails one by one within a large search domain. Either way, the process of simply finding an email becomes an ordeal. It unnecessarily wastes my time, and results in a non-trivial amount of resentment.

The temptation to put an image (or several images) in your email signature can be great. We want our social media links to ‘pop.’ we want to highlight our personal or corporate identity by including a logo. But a signature is not a marketing tool. It is not a business card. It is powerful in its simplicity.

When crafting your signature, think about the information that would be inconvenient for your recipient NOT to have, and include that. Next time you’re tempted to fancify your signature with wiz bang graphics, don’t.

Does Student Success start with Diversity in Higher Ed Administration?

Twitter has finally begun to add tools to mitigate harassment.

Harassment on Twitter has been a huge problem in recent years, and the amount of poor citizenship on the platform has only increased post-election. Why has it taken so long to respond? On the one hand, it is a very hard technical problem: how can users benefit from radical openness at the same time as they are protected from personal harm? In certain respects, this is a problem with free speech in general, but the problem is even greater for Twitter as it looks to grow its user base and prepare for sale. On the other hand, Twitter insiders have said that dealing with harassment has simply not been a priority for the mostly white male leadership team. Diversity is famously bad at Twitter. A lack of diversity within an organization leads to a lack of empathy for the concerns of ‘others.’ It leads to gaps in an organization’s field of vision, since we as people naturally pursue goals that are important to us, and what is important to us is naturally a product of our own experience. Values create culture. And culture determines what is included and excluded (both people and perspectives). Read more