Mike Sharkey's recent post on the Blackboard blog site, "Analytics isn't a thing," triggered by an epiphany he had while reading the latest NMC Horizon Report, suggests that we might finally be seeing a maturation in the much-hyped analytics space. Rather than viewing analytics as a product category in and of itself, Mike concludes that the market is finally embracing analytics as a tool that can help solve discrete problems in specific situations. He writes:
"My point is that we shouldn’t be “selling analytics” and customers shouldn’t be looking to “buy analytics.” Analytics isn’t a thing. Analytics help solve problems like retention, student success, operational efficiency, or engagement."
If Mike is right, this would be a welcome sea change that augers well for data driven decision making and problem solving in education.
From what I'm seeing at higher education institutions, people at all levels (faculty, staff, administration and leadership) are primarily looking for access to useful data that can help inform their decisions on multiple fronts. While it might not be as sexy as selling complex analytics packages with unlimited potential, getting the plumbing in place to get the right data in the hands of the right people is the solution that people are asking for. Time will tell if Mike's epiphany is a harbinger of a broader trend.