Applications for Analytics Labs – now open!

We are delighted to announce that we are recruiting participants for the next cycle of Jisc’s popular Analytics Labs, running from week commencing 15 October 2018 through to week commencing 4 February 2019.

What is Analytics Labs?
Analytics Labs is an exciting research environment within which we co-design new data derived products and services with our members and other customers. It is offered free to Jisc and HESA members.

What is involved?
We are offering an exciting and unique opportunity for data analysts (with experience in Tableau and/or Alteryx or related products) from across the higher education sector to join our agile analysis teams developing proof of concept outputs for redevelopment and release to a far wider audience.

The effort required is just one day per week for twelve weeks (plus a day either end of the cycle for start-up and showcase events). Most of the time will be spent working remotely with team members from across the sector. You will also meet face to face with your team on a monthly basis. For that level of commitment, you’ll get a fantastic professional development experience as we create new content through:

  • Accessing a wider range of datasets than is currently possible, for safe experimentation purposes
  • Identifying currently unknown trends and insights to provide an evidence base for sound business decisions
  • Innovating through collaborative working, for example across institutional functions

In addition to team members we are also seeking team leaders. These will be heads, assistant heads or similarly senior roles charged with steering their team towards creating widely applicable outputs for demonstration at the end of cohort showcase event. Again, this role provides the opportunity to gain/enhance professional development experience in a number of areas, including providing leadership in a largely remote working environment. We anticipate the effort to average out at around 8 days for an entire twelve-week development cycle (this includes 5 days of face to face activity – start-up, showcase plus 3 team meetings).

There is no charge to take part, however participants are expected to cover their own travel and subsistence costs when attending face to face project meetings. Further details on Analytics Labs and the benefits of getting involved can be found on the Jisc Business Intelligence web page.

How do I apply?
We are taking applications for the upcoming Analytics Labs cycle running from:
Week commencing 15 October 2018 – week commencing 4 February 2019

Please note: you must be available for a face to face start-up event in Manchester on Thursday 18 October.

Application is open to Jisc Higher Education members only via an online form. This should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete. Amongst other things you will be asked to confirm that you are able to commit the time required and have your employer’s full support to do so; indicate the themes/areas you’d be interested in exploring and explain in 500 words or less your relevant experience/why you’d like to be involved.

Applications close on 29 August 2018. We will inform successful applicants during September 2018.

What do I get out of it?
We provide a technical and legal framework, including governance (advisory group who oversee and guide themed activity), data protection training, project management, technical and data consultancy; access to data for experimentation purposes and all software (supported by technical experts).
In addition to this support, participants can further develop their experience and skills in:

  • Tableau – leading edge data visualisation software
  • Alteryx – an advanced data manipulation tool
  • Big data
  • Data science techniques and software
  • National data landscape – the what, where and how national data can apply to enhancing education
  • Agile development methods
  • Cross-institutional collaboration

Lizzie Haynes, Policy and Planning Analyst at the University of Bath and an Analytics Labs participant commented on her experience, “It’s a fantastic opportunity to work with people from different organisations to produce data visualisations and dashboards to benefit the sector.” Would Lizzie recommend the Analytics Labs experience to colleagues? “Yes absolutely. It was useful, we all got a lot out of it and it was really fun, so yes, I would definitely recommend it!”

What themes will the Analytics Labs be working on?

Teams will be exploring the following themes, as determined via our established stakeholder group. In return participants receive support and further develop skills.

  • Diversity benchmarking – covering e.g. Equality accreditation, Stonewall and Gender Pay Gap, Athena Swan, Race Equality Charter, others, may include staff and student body.
  • Learning analytics – Using selected ‘learning analytics’ data to improve mandatory data returns and performance metrics. Continuation of existing use of learning analytics data for student engagement benchmarking and insights.
  • Postgraduate research – including time to completion, completion rates, supervision and staff profiles, etc. To complement work already done in Labs on PGT admissions and REF 2021.
  • Professional teaching qualifications – Use HESA Staff return data (ACTCHQUAL) possibly with data from HEA to profile number, percentage and trends of academic qualifications held at institution and by subject, benchmark with relevant groups.
  • Financial sustainability dashboard and modeller – Operationalise range of financial health measures e.g. from providers and/or as set out by Council of University Chairs (CUC) and the Office for Students (OfS), Financial Sustainability Strategy Group (FSSG). Support University Executives in reporting to Governing Bodies.

We will acquire the relevant data for these themes and support our teams in agile rapid proof of concept product development.

What happens to the outputs of Analytics Labs activity?

All outputs are demonstrated to peers and representatives of the wider community at a showcase event.

The most promising dashboards and visualisations for higher education use are redeveloped by in-house staff into highly valuable suites of product. designed to help with easy exploration and decision-making within the sector. These are released through HESA’s Heidi Plus HE intelligence platform as ‘Community Dashboards’. Enquire how to access Community Dashboards via Heidi Plus.

Previous Analytics Labs participants have delivered insights into a range of areas including HE finance and the impact of Brexit, league tables, postgraduate teaching tracking and tracking the student journey and we’re always looking to build on and develop some areas and explore others.

Please email us if you have any queries.

Analytics Labs Update Summer 2018

It’s been a busy time on the Analytics Labs front. Here’s what’s been happening recently.

Our second cohort of 2017/18 ran from February until May and we had 5 teams (43 participants from 38 higher education providers) working away on some interesting themes that provided some excellent proof of concepts to demonstrate to sector peers and experts at the Showcase event in Manchester.

All demonstrations were provided with feedback by a panel of experts and a traffic light score was used an interactive voting app. Red = Do NOT take forward, Amber = Has potential for further development, Green = Would enhance Community Dashboard profile.

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Teams and Themes:

Grade inflation/grade improvement

A subject that is being hotly debated in the sector currently. Team members worked on “An analytical exploration into time series trend of degree classifications awarded with emphasis on recent claims of grade inflation versus other possible explanations”.

The team Immersed themselves into this theme and designed dashboards and visualisations that modelled impacts for a range of roles from prospective students to vice chancellors.

During their time with the team participants liaised with Universities UK on their work in this area and reported to the DfE on the activity. An example of the potential reach of some of the Analytics Labs work.

Feedback on the day for the four visualisations demonstrated by the team provided an average of 86% of those voting felt they had potential for further development or would enhance the current community dashboard portfolio.

A-level/equivalent take-up trends and applicant quality

Here the team looked at the theme from the perspective of a faculty/school/programme manager and a recruiter – considering both the viability of what was on offer and the recruitment pipeline and future strategy.

The panel commented on the potential of the outputs to save an enormous amount of time and effort in course design and the possibilities offered around recruitment.

Feedback on the day for the eight visualisations demonstrated by the team provided an average of 92% of those voting felt they had potential for further development or would enhance the current community dashboard portfolio.

Opportunities to enhance PG experience with a focus on Admissions

The team took the perspective of a Departmental or Admissions Manager assessing recruitment and admissions positions and actions and a Senior Manager predicting future intake/income and deciding strategy accordingly.

The panel commented on the impressive work that had been done here especially in looking at the PG experience.

Feedback on the day for the seven visualisations demonstrated by the team provided an average of 78% of those voting felt they had potential for further development or would enhance the current community dashboard portfolio.

Degree outcome and attainment by entry qualifications and BAME and WP indicators with ability to assess at TEF subject level.

This team looked at a Director of Planning monitoring value-added outcomes over time, a senior manager assessing degree outcomes across the range of students and backgrounds, and a student support manager allocating resource for student interventions and support.

Panel members were impressed and wanted to see how this area could be further explored.

Feedback on the day for the four visualisations demonstrated by the team provided an average of 89% of those voting felt they had potential for further development or would enhance the current community dashboard portfolio.

Alternative providers

We welcomed our first team made up of colleagues from alternative higher education providers.

The team was keen to provide an overview and introduction of alternative providers ‘a meet the APS’ dashboard was a key output of their work. They also looked at a range of roles including policy maker looking at their institutional offering and related funding and marketing targets, a planner benchmarking with other institutions, a marketing officer looking at marketing campaigns.

The panel were once again impressed by the outputs from the team and comment was made that this experience provided the chance to ‘open the door’ on the alternative provider experience and build on understanding and the potential for collaboration across the sector.

Feedback on the day for the four visualisations demonstrated by the team provided an average of 95% of those voting felt they had potential for further development or would enhance the current community dashboard portfolio.


Recruiting for cohort starting in Autumn

The showcase was the culmination of another three months of fantastic efforts by colleagues from across the sector. We also kick-started another Analytics Labs that is working as we speak and will be reporting back at a Showcase in Manchester on 18 October. We will be starting our Autumn cohort at that event – are you interested in getting involved? If so, watch this space, we’ll be telling you how to apply in the next few days.

Latest Analytics Labs cohort complete

The first Analytics Labs teams of 2017/18 have just completed their 12 weeks of agile dashboard development. Participants (35 from 27 HE organisations) presented their work at a showcase event in Manchester on 7 February. Using the unique supported approach and secure data processing environment, teams have been developing their data and analytics skills, and creating potential future dashboards for the sector on topics including:

  • Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Metrics, including comparison of Research Excellence Framework outcomes with TEF outcomes, and impact of TEF on recruitment, grade inflation and destinations of leavers.
  • Career Calculator and Market Gap Analysis, to help identify career pathways for students and gaps in the market to inform future course development.
  • Student retention and campus connectivity, linking London specific data such as Transport for London and crime data with to identify trends in student retention and causes for students to drop out.
  • Sickness absence, workforce age and student growth and careers & diversity. A dedicated UHR (Universities Human Resources) and UCEA (Universities and Colleges Employers Association) team explored sickness absence in HE and the ability to benchmark institutions against the wider sector. They also explored the correlation between teaching staff age and student growth, and gender and ethnicity split across the sector in the context of career progression.

Dashboards were well received by the audience of peers and panel of experts from Jisc, HESA and the Community Dashboards’ Strategic Advisory Group on the day – those deemed most valuable to the sector may be released into the community for evaluation as Community Dashboards Beta. Selected beta dashboards will be fully quality controlled and polished before release as full Community Dashboards for use by the wider sector.

The experience of attendees has once again been positive, with indviduals describing their time with Analytics Labs as ‘amazing’, ‘satisfying’, ‘enjoyable’ and ‘motivating’. Participants also noted that they had developed and honed skills and knowledge that could be applied to their work roles. This feedback builds on the responses to the Labs’ experience that we have been inspiring since the first teams took part in 2015.

The event was also an opportunity for outgoing teams to meet the new teams starting their Analytics Labs journey this week – more on the themes they will be exploring will be posted here soon.

Does Analytics Labs sound like something you’d like to be involved in in the future? Then email us to register your interest