A review of the impact of the National Forum’s Data-Enabled Student Success Initiative (DESSI) was recently conducted by the DESSI Manager, Lee O’Farrell, looking at the changes that are evident in awareness, understanding, practice and policy as a result of the initiative. DESSI was launched in 2017 by the National Forum in partnership with the Department of Education and Skills, the Higher Education Authority, Quality and Qualifications Ireland, Studentsurvey.ie, HEAnet, EduCampus, the Irish Universities Association, the Technological Higher Education Association and the Higher Education Colleges Association. Its purpose was to build institutional and sectoral capacity to strategically engage with, and maximise the value of, their data as a resource for supporting student success.
27 higher education institutions, including every Irish university and technological higher education institution, have been involved in DESSI through formal participation, hosting institutional workshops and DESSI-themed events or contributing to resources and case studies. To support institutions, strategic workshops were facilitated in 14 Irish HEIs, two webinars were conducted, and two national events were held to foster institutional approaches to data-enabled student success. 18 DESSI resources were also published, covering topics such as strategy development, GDPR and good practice case studies and 11 local seminars relating to data/analytics were funded through the National Forum’s National Seminar Series. Over 600 representatives of the higher education community have taken part in related webinars or local/national events since the establishment of DESSI and the value of data-enabled approaches at both institutional and governmental level has received increased recognition, with learning analytics projects having attracted over €1.6m in strategic funding.
In October 2019, representatives of 13 participating institutions (three universities, six institutes of technology and four private colleges) agreed to take part in semi-structured interviews to discuss the impact of DESSI. Data from these interviews indicted the following:
- DESSI has influenced the development of 16 strategies/policies across the institutions that participated in the interviews.
- DESSI inspired or informed related initiatives currently underway in nine of the institutions.
- DESSI facilitated intra-institutional conversations and collaborations and enabled inter-institutional co-operation.
- DESSI has positively impacted on the perceived value of data as an educational resource at both institutional and national levels.
- DESSI has resulted in the expanded embedding of data use in everyday institutional practices, including data-informed teaching approaches.
Supporting institutions in their strategic engagement with data is a core activity within the National Forum’s student success priority area and a recent National Forum report highlighted the importance of evidence-based decision-making as a key enabler of student success. 2020 will see institutions being further supported in the strategic, student-centred use of data to support all learners.
For more information on DESSI, see here.