Addressing the Need of Business Intelligence in Higher Education



Many people are aware of business intelligence (BI) products and how companies can use them to improve productivity to better understand the data behind their operations. However, not everyone realizes the powerful case for using business intelligence in higher education how to measure academic success with it.

Let’s discuss some of the challenges higher education organizations face, and how BI can resolve those problems.

Challenges in higher education and their BI solutions

Higher education has faced and continues to face, many an uphill battle in the race to provide a high-quality education in the most efficient way possible. Many education systems today are complex operations, but they also provide a vital service for students to improve their knowledge of the world, in addition to their career prospects.

In fact, the outcomes of higher education software solutions have implications which reverberate throughout society. When higher education can improve efficiency and improve the insights they have in relation to their faculty, we will all benefit.

Complex data

There is a considerable amount of data involved in the daily operations within higher education. To illustrate, educational institutions need to handle data related to enrollment, to how students fare in their courses, to the grades received, to their outcomes once they’ve graduated and have begun seeking employment, and more.

Collecting and analyzing the data dump from several systems takes considerable time and people power. As a result, organizations may reduce the data they collect and potential insights can fall by the wayside. On the other hand, institutions may opt for the expensive route by spending considerable amounts on employees who can wade through and interpret the significant volumes of data. Unfortunately, those costs are often passed on to students who then spend the early years of their careers worrying about and paying off student loan debt.

The BI solution

Business intelligence software can enable institutions to collect data efficiently and understand the data once they have it. The scope of the types of data they can realistically collect increases dramatically. Moreover, the act of pulling in the collected data is hugely simplified.

Nowadays, this data can be stored in an OLAP cube, which is a method of storing data in a multidimensional form, generally for reporting purposes and can be customized with unique OLAP design.

Slow processes

Currently, administrative processes are notoriously slow in higher education. Exam results often take months before they are released, and enrollment processes take more time than is necessary. Accommodation allocation can be unfair and, you guessed it, slow. Collecting data from student surveys takes time as well, with many faculties still using outdated paper-based surveys. It truly boggles the mind.

The BI solution

Yet, by using business intelligence in higher education, organizations can speed up their operations dramatically. If you were to only study the example of exam results, consider how much faster the system could be using a technology-based solution where students could be informed of their results automatically. Using technology can cut out a lot of middlemen and bureaucratic processes in every aspect of higher education.

Human error

Administrative teams are involved in most processes related to enrollment, student surveys, and grades. This means there is always a chance for human error. These teams can come at a high cost to their respective institutions.

The BI solution

Business intelligence software can help higher education institutions streamline every single process, and along the way significantly reduce potential for human error.


Enrolling at a college or university usually follows a famously inefficient and sometimes unfair practice. This affects the way students select the organizations they apply for and makes increasing campus diversity more challenging for an institution.

The BI solution

Organizations can better collect important enrollment data to track how they are doing in the areas they want to improve. To illustrate, if they want to increase diversity, data can be collected and analyzed quickly. Then, they can track comparisons year after year and see how to measure student success in the best way. Using BI technology can significantly improve the way enrollment plays out.

Student Retention

Measuring student retention is an essential activity because it serves as a reflection of the faculty’s performance, as well as the choices the faculty makes during the enrollment process.

The BI solution

Data related to student retention can be efficiently and effectively collected, enabling administrators to better respond to any problems which arise in relation to student retention. With business intelligence and data analysis, institutions can pick up on trends and examine spikes in student drop-out rate. Then they can link those trends to what’s happening at the ground level.

Data insights aren’t responsive

Institutions need to keep track of their admissions. Now keep in mind that, across the USA between 2006 and 2011, 3.2 million new students enrolled in higher education courses. That is quite a lot of admissions records to manage.

Now, understand that the administration goes through the admissions process every year. What if they don’t have the right data available, such as how many applications they are receiving? As a result, they might not pick up on low numbers until it was too late to bring more students in for the year.

The BI solution

A BI system, which tracks admissions as they come in, means staff can very quickly pull up data about the volume of admissions, and compare that information to previous years. This also means they can vastly improve their responsiveness to this situation. (For instance, they can embark on a recruitment drive and boost advertising to attract more applicants quickly.)

Inefficient student survey processes

Higher education institutions are well-aware of the importance of collecting data about students and their experiences on campus. They want to know how they found the course material, the learning processes, which courses are most popular, and, after graduating, how they did when they began their job search. Much of this data collection is done with outdated and error-prone paper surveys.

The BI solution

Paper surveys can be replaced with digital versions which students can easily and quickly complete without needing to send documents via snail mail. Furthermore, staff members can quickly and easily pull up data for analysis. This means the institution can increase their agility and insights into the student experience. Then, they can quickly improve and respond when needed.

High HR costs

Most higher education organizations have very high administration and HR costs. This is due to the complexities, bureaucracies, and slow methods which are still often utilized.

The BI solution

HR professionals can use BI to help simplify their administrative processes and to free up resources. Those newly available funds can be redirected into improving other aspects of the faculty and staff.

Security concerns

Higher education institutions hold considerable volumes of student data which is often sensitive. This makes the organization vulnerable to attacks on their system. Current systems are often outdated, increasing such vulnerability. In fact, hackers are specifically targeting universities.

The BI solution

BI software can help organizations use predictive analytics to analyze old data to see when security breaches might have happened. They can then use that information to prevent future violations from taking place.

The future of business intelligence in higher education

So far, we have covered a few examples of the way we can use business intelligence in higher education to improve services and learning experiences for students. Nonetheless, there is still more to review.

We could also better harness the potential of business intelligence by using data analysis to assess which methods of learning work best for each student. Or even to track and analyze how libraries are used and how library use relates to grade outcomes.

Furthermore, you could even use BI to monitor the use of energy resources across campus. You can use this data to improve efficiency, identify buildings that consume too much energy, and seek solutions to reduce energy use.

Regarding the ways students learn, BI has the potential to offer personalized learning programs. It could adopt varying forms of content based on a student’s learning preferences. BI can improve the way students access information and course material.

BI also has the potential to help higher education organizations improve efficiency and the services they offer students. Institutions can undoubtedly use BI technologies to drive improvements in administrative processes, the way students are taught, and even in the way resources are managed.

As you can see, the limits of what can be achieved with business intelligence and higher education software solutions will be defined by us and the way we choose to approach and use this technology.

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