The 2019 AAIR Annual Forum Revisited
Institutional Research: The Devil Is In The Detail
Institutional Research: The Devil Is In The Detail
The 2019 AAIR Annual Forum was held at Wrest Point in Hobart from 11–13 November. The organising committee comprised:
This dynamic team put together a devilishly strong program against the theme, Institutional Research: The Devil is in the Detail.
The first day of the Forum was filled with workshops and special interest group meetings. Particularly useful was the update from the Department of Education and Training on Transforming the Collection of Student Information (TCSI), as well as performance-based funding. Also valuable was the update from the Social Research Centre (SRC) on QILT (Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching). The day ended with the welcome reception overlooking the Derwent River.
The opening address from Craig Barling, Chief Strategy Officer in the Vice Chancellor’s office at the University of Tasmania, talked about why they do things differently and how they try to make a difference at the University of Tasmania. Angel Calderon from RMIT University gave the keynote address of the day about the future direction of higher education and the implications for institutional research and planning.
Parallel sessions followed morning tea and covered such topics as ‘Enabling versus sub-bachelor’ from Penny Szybiak of Charles Darwin University, and the ‘Utilisation of QILT data to enhance the student experience: From big data to big impact’ from Cassandra Saunders and Michelle Ye of the University of Tasmania. In the latter presentation, Michelle and Cassandra showed how they took a series of high-level reports and changed them into interactive GOS and SES dashboards. The result was a significantly increased capacity to report on the survey data with the richness of the data being able to be used by colleges and schools to inform strategic plans, recruitment and marketing.
Elvira Fonacier of the University of Technology Sydney talked about how they were able to increase response rates in the Student Experience Surveys (SES). Elvira talked about how UTS used a multipronged approach to improve response rate. This included trying to improve student perceptions, engage with faculties and student organisations, and support leadership in the learning and teaching area to promote QILT. UTS includes information in their student-facing collateral materials and appoint staff as ‘champions for the QILT surveys’. The results were improved response rates and better buy-in from staff on the value of student feedback.
Claire McLean of Central Queensland University talked about ethics when using student data in analytics. Supporting low SES students is a priority for CQUniversity, particularly in relation to HEPPP. Given that there are smaller groups involved in HEPPP programs, data reidentification can be a concern. Data reidentification occurs when a set of anonymous data can be linked back to the individual subject that provided it. CQUniversity is working to improve its process and increase its capabilities in using analytics in the best way possible. The University is developing best practice models for student data governance.
‘Automation of routine reporting with R Markdown’ was Stewart Craig’s (Monash University) topic. He showed how they were able to use R Markdown to automate reports to both static reports and to dashboards. They found that this meant that errors were reduced, reports were easy to recreate, and overall reporting was improved.
One of the last sessions of the day was from Kubra Chambers and Tany Gupta of the University of Sydney on developing predictive capabilities for institutional researchers. The University of Sydney wanted to improve their capability in predicting student enrolments, load and revenue forecasting. Using Oracle PBCS, they were able to develop a smart tool called SPIRE (Smart Predictive Insights for Revenue and Enrolment), which has solved a critical problem for the university.
The day ended with the Forum dinner which started with a wonderful boat cruise down the Derwent before returning to Wrest Point. The 1920s theme was certainly embraced by many, and as usual, not only was the food very good but the socialising and dancing certainly added to the success of the night.
The final day of the Forum was also very busy. Stuart Terry of Otago Polytechnic talked about using data to support diversity and inclusion. Creating an environment where people are able to bring their ‘whole selves’ is a key factor in being able to attract and retain the best people. In 2016, Otago Polytechnic received the Rainbow Tick, which is an accreditation designed to demonstrate LGBTTIQ+ inclusive practices and service delivery in the workplace. Using institution data allowed Otago Polytechnic to clearly demonstrate improvements in LGBTTIQ+ inclusion and staff wellbeing at an institutional level. This led to the organisation receiving a nationally recognised Rainbow Excellence Award for Programme, Policy and Practice.
Dean Ward of Edith Cowan University (ECU) also talked about diversity and equity and changing the way we view students from broad sociological groups to detailed individual intersections. The framework for the collection of Australian Higher Education Diversity and Equity Information was considered innovative and ahead of its time when it was developed about 30 years ago; however, because it had not evolved over the years it was no longer meeting ECU’s needs. ECU developed a new, modernised methodology to meet its changing needs.
Tessy Jolly of the University of Sydney (USyd), along the Ken Yul Lee of Cubane Consulting, talked about how USyd uses UniForum data to analyse feedback and set targets in transformative projects. USyd has embarked on a multiyear professional services transformation programme targeting multiple functions. By using the data from UniForum, the university was able to benchmark itself against other institutions in the higher education sector, and identify critical pain points, service gaps, and delivery costs. Workshops were held with functional areas. The richness of the data available allowed them to pinpoint areas for focus and improvement.
Some of the final presentations of the day included Rosie Williams who talked about The University of Melbourne’s Strategic Planning Cycle and how they integrate strategy and planning in the process. The University of Melbourne’s strategic framework considers strategy, risk, planning and performance, at both the whole-of-institution and at the divisional level. The planning cycle tries to ensure that there is alignment between university objectives and divisional priorities. Rosie was able to explain how the process works, how evidence is used to underpin decision-making, and the challenges of implementing an integrated cycle.
Zaneta Park of Massey University showed how she was able to automate and customise Word documents using R. Massey University needed to create customised results for each of their undergraduate courses. The system needed to be easy to use and include data from multiple sources. By using the WordR software they were able to create reports that both met the needs of staff and were easily replicated.
The winner of the Best Presenter Award was Shane Compton—with credit given to his colleagues Benjamin Phillips and Paul Lavrakas from the Social Research Centre—for his presentation on ‘Using loss framing to optimise response in the context of the Graduate Outcomes Survey – an experimental trial’.
The Best New Presenter Award went to Gimwah Sng and Shane Smith, also of the Social Research Centre, for their presentation on ‘Graduate employment destination – exploring the relationships between study area, occupation and industry of employment’.
Congratulations to each of our award winners!
As usual, our sponsors and exhibitors are an important part of the Forum. The 2019 Annual Forum sponsors included:
Exhibitors included Altis Consulting, Explorance, QILT and Watermark.
At the AAIR AGM held during the Forum, the Executive Committee said farewell David Carroll (Monash University) and welcomed Eva Seidel (Flinders University) as the new Sales, Marketing and Promotional Materials portfolio leader. Also during the AGM, I was honoured to be awarded life membership to AAIR.
The next AAIR Annual Forum has been confirmed for Sydney later in 2020. Dates and details are yet to be confirmed, but once information is known it will be publicised.
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