Lighting Candles

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Educators coming together around the use of research and analysis to drive decisions. Practitioners and policy makers calling for more openess and transparency in exploring outcomes. Is this a meeting of the Spelling Commission? No. This is the University and College Information Systems Association’s (UCISA) seminar on the rising use of business intelligence in education. UCISA is the UK equivalent of Educause, and it held this futuristic meeting in the hallowed halls of the University of Bristol, just outside London. After writing about the Power to Know You’re Making a Difference and the Need to Know Situation in Education, it was quite interesting to hear the challenges that US school districts, community colleges, and universities are facing in their efforts to gather and leverage data to drive decisions being echoed by colleagues in the UK. We heard about the “Edinburgh Enlightenment Project,” from the University of Edinburgh. I liked the take of the “Knowing Me, Knowing You” presentation—complete with ABBA soundtrack—from Liverpool John Moores University as well. One key consensus point from these presentations—the technology is not the tough stuff in insight initiatives. It’s the people, processes, and culture that are most challenging. Moreover, a key element of all three of these issues was emphasized here: power. Those in power have to get it, support it, and be willing to use it, or else intelligence systems will never get off the ground. The money quote from the seminar was borrowed from Sir Winston Churchill (a former Chancellor of University of Bristol): “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it.” Here’s to lighting candles with the good use of information. Our students deserve it!

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