In order to adjust to the constant changes in higher education, it's necessary to collect data about our students. In this high-paced information age, society is constantly evolving and educators must adapt to these changes. To provide the best educational experiences for our students, we must stay relevant to how society and other external factors impact their daily lives. We can collect data in a variety of ways. Surveys and polls have been a go-to method for many years. However, social media is also a great way to collect data on student sentiment and trending topics.We can collect data by searching popular student and university hashtags on Twitter and Instagram; as well as review comments posted on university Facebook pages. Data can be collected from almost anywhere, but how do we use this information to better serve our students? The answer to this question relies on 3 important steps:
1.Inspect Data for Accuracy
We must first determine how accurate the collected data is. Depending on the method of data collection used, accuracy may vary. If a survey is restricted to students attending a particular university or is available to college students nationwide, the results may differ. There may also be discrepancies if multiple users complete the survey more than once. If too many errors are discovered, the collection process may need to be revamped and repeated. Selecting a small and distinct sample group will help eliminate possible inaccuracies in findings.
2.Analyze for Applicability
Once accuracy is established, the data must be analyzed.
- What are our students saying?
- What are they not saying?
Sometimes, the answer to an issue is hidden in the gray areas. It is our job as educators to understand what our students require from their overall educational experiences.
Implementing change may be easier said than done. However, certain issues call for particular and immediate action. A good example of this is the recent unrest on American campuses concerning racism. When big issues arise on campus we cannot ignore the emotions and opinions of our student population. Our role as educators is not to push things under the rug and pretend they don’t exist. We provide support for our students and we also act as their advocates. Therefore, we must implement change when it's necessary and we must be willing to revamp policies as needed. This process is cyclical and must be repeated consistently. The amount of data available is endless. This is why we must have a goal in mind when seeking to collect data. However, before setting out to collect data, we must know how we're going to use it. Is there a plan in place for analyzing the data and making changes based on said analysis? Without a plan, data can just sit around for eons. If you're going to go through the process of collecting data you need to be prepared to use it.