Higher Education institutions should incorporate learning systems into the business intelligence framework

The Sloan Consortium, an association committed to the advancement of online learning, released the results of a a survey it commissioned on the growth of online learning in higher education. It should be of no surprise to learn that online learning continues to grow as a mode for learning, although the growth rate from 2006 to 2007 did decline slightly when compared with 2005 to 2006. Still, nearly 20% of the nations 17.6 million students are enrolled in at least one fully online course.

Of particular note is the fact that nearly 54% of institutions are either somewhat or fully engaged in offering online learning as a key part of their strategy to deliver education.

As online learning becomes a more strategic component of the institution’s success, so to does the data within the learning management system (LMS) compared with other institutional systems. Unfortunately, too often the LMS is left to be an island of data unto itself and is not usually integrated with the administrative or ERP systems.

This can be detrimental to decision making as it is not always possible to form a 360 degree view of student activity and learning assessment without the data from both the LMS and the ERP.

While institutions have increasingly showed a willingness to interface these two systems at a transactional level, it is time that institutions consider integrating the data from these two systems to create a fully informed set of decision support tools. Increasingly accrediting agencies are asking for information on student engagement and learning outcomes. These are two areas of measurement that must come from a combined view of the data.

In five to ten years this problem may be easier to solve as the systems are likely to become one. Until that time, one should consider a business intelligence strategy that combines data from these disparate systems to create fully informed profiles of students, their engagement levels, and learning outcomes.