The 3 Most Important Numbers at EDUCAUSE 2016?

The need to shift the discussion.

October 29, 2015

"EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology".

From the EDUCAUSE Mission and Organization page of educause.edu. Emphasis mine.

How are we to judge how well EDUCAUSE is living up to its mission?

Perhaps a better question to ask is how can we, the EDUCAUSE membership, evaluate our success as a profession in meeting the goal of advancing higher education?

How can EDUCAUSE as both a conference and a member organization push technology into its proper role as a means, and put the focus squarely on the postsecondary ends that edtech investments are intended to enable?

How might we shift our thinking as we start to prepare for the next EDUCAUSE away from information technology, and towards the mission to “advance higher education”?

Perhaps what the next EDUCAUSE Conference (2016) needs is a common set of metrics.  An agreed upon set of variables that we can measure the impact of our postsecondary technology investments.

I’d like to suggest 3 measures that we could use next year in Anaheim:

  • Student Debt
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate
  • Percent Full-Time Faculty

None of these variables are perfect, but maybe they are a start.

Student debt is intended to serve as both a measure of college affordability and public investment.  (As the former is a function of the latter).  The measure here would be average debt per enrolled student after separation or graduation.

The 6-year graduation rate is an imperfect measure of value.  A postsecondary education is only valuable (or potentially valuable) to the student able to persist to a degree.

Percent full-time faculty stands in for educational quality.  The job of a college educator should be valued enough to be made into a full-time position, and students deserve to be taught by an educator solely devoted to the task of education.

Please feel invited to dispute my choice of outcome measures, and to suggest your own.

The independent variables are IT investments.  The dependent variables are the measures above.  The unit of analysis can be a school, a system, or the entire sector.

At EDUCAUSE 2016 we should be evaluating the efficacy of educational technology investments against their impact on our agreed upon set of measures.  We should be held accountable to demonstrate that our investments yield measurable returns.

It is less important which outcome variables we choose, then that we choose something.  We need a common framework in order to understand our effectiveness.  This framework needs to be simple, consistent, and legible to all involved.

Do you have other ideas about how EDUCAUSE 2016 can take the focus off technology, and re-focus attention on the larger higher ed goals?

Is it reasonable to ask EDUCAUSE to provide these common outcomes - and to advocate for an agreed upon framework?

What do we need to do so that our EDUCAUSE community takes responsibility for solving the big problems in higher education?

Are you also already thinking about EDUCAUSE 2016?

What do you think was the big story coming out of EDUCAUSE 2015?



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