The Role Analytics Should Play in Your District's Decision-Making Process


The Role Analytics Should Play in Your District's Decision-Making Process

from ClassLink

By George Perreault     Oct 6, 2018

The Role Analytics Should Play in Your District's Decision-Making Process

With the rise of digital learning resources comes the increased need for easy, fast, and equitable access for all students, no matter the resource and no matter the device. With this digital expansion, however, comes a pressing need to organize, deploy, and evaluate these resources and their impact on education. Districts need to understand how effectively these tools are being used and which tools are worth the investment for them to better serve their student populations.

Cedar Hill Independent School District, located in the greater Dallas Fort Worth area, faced just this problem. The school district currently serves 7,800 K-12 students and employs 1,000 faculty members and staff. Digital learning is becoming an increasingly prominent part of its overall learning ecosystem. But the district’s leadership has historically struggled to determine which apps and programs were worth the investment.

Part of the challenge facing Cedar Hill ISD and many other districts is that resources tend to be widely dispersed across buildings, departments, and classrooms. This creates a logistical nightmare. While it’s essential that every teacher and student have precisely the resources they need to be successful, ensuring they do puts a strain on the IT department and instructional leadership teams as they seek to manage, support, and analyze their role in teaching and learning.

Like so many other districts, Cedar Hill increasingly needs to know not just where the needs are, but also how the resources are being used. And critically, Cedar Hill’s leaders need to understand the return on investment for each of the edtech products that their schools use.

Three Questions District Leaders Need to Ask

1. How many digital resources are currently available to teachers and students in the district?

Do you keep a master list of all digital resources being used each year? Assembling this information makes analysis down the road much easier.

2. How frequently are these applications being used? Are some being underutilized–or not used at all?

Do you know which applications are most popular? Are there applications that have little to no usage? How can this information be used to inform professional development and renewal decisions?

3. How and when are teachers and students using resources?

Are there patterns in the way that resources are being used? Understanding application usage patterns can significantly aid in understanding what applications are necessary and productive for your district and which can be replaced.

Without understanding these questions, districts will have trouble understanding how well—or poorly—their allocation of resources is serving their students and teachers.

The only way district leaders can answer these, and other essential questions are through the application of analytics. Analytics can provide a panoramic view of what’s happening in a district and allow leaders to get detailed information on how technology is being used in the building, department, and even end-user level. By understanding when, how, and how frequently teachers and students are using resources, districts can meaningfully evaluate their impact and return on investment.

Neil Bolton, Executive Director of Technology for Cedar Hill, sums up the need many administrators have this way: “We don’t want to spend money on applications we aren’t using; so, there are reporting tools that show how many clicks, or how many sign-on’s there are for each app.”

According to Bolton, this is especially important come renewal time. “Look, our campuses are logging into an application every day, there’s value in it, and it’s benefitting our instruction, so it’s one that’s worth keeping because we have the data serving nearly 8,000 students and employees to back it up.”

Going Beyond the Bottom Line

In addition to decisions that impact financial commitments, analytics are instrumental in helping inform areas such as communications and teacher training. Districts can use analytics to:

  • Identify potential gaps in communication that lead to underutilization in individual schools or departments. All too often, the implementation of district-wide resources can vary from school to school and analytics can help identify schools or groups that are not engaged.
  • Pinpoint professional development needs to ensure equity across teacher and student user groups. A lack of utilization might stem from a lack of training and analytics will help identify users who need extra support.

Being able to accurately pinpoint where issues exist means that district leaders can more efficiently dispense resources to deal with them.

Cedar Hill administrators can leverage usage reports, even from their mobile devices, to understand students are using the resources available to them and measure the efficacy of the investments they’ve made in digital learning.

As educational technology stakeholders prepare to converge on EdSurge’s Fusion conference in October, they are preparing to talk about Personalized Learning for the Whole Learner. With the right access and analytics software, this very goal can be achieved for every learner.

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