£7bn 363 colleges 4.2m learners 263,257 staff

Seeing what data means for course teams

Many people in course teams find it difficult to work up any enthusiasm for analysing their students’ success data, and just cannot see anything in it – for many of them, data is just numbers.

They would get a lot more out of a more visual presentation, stimulating them to see the story of their teaching in the numbers, and encouraging them to find ways to make things better for their students through ORID reviews [see my 4 January post]

The most vivid and meaningful example of visualisation that I can find is in the magnificent presentations on www.gapminder.org

Although the method seems incredibly hi-tech,  Google bought  the gapminder software in 2007  and it is available free! within Google Docs http://docs.google.com/

So I have started to produce demonstrations this week.
By feeding enrolment, achievement, retention and success data into a Google Docs spreadsheet and then inserting the Motion Chart Gadget, I can now run time series for the data in ways that urge the viewer to look for the story which plays out before their eyes.

Realistically, I have until May/June before I introduce it to course teams as they begin their Course Reviews, and there is some way to go before my demos are robust enough to use with real people. I still have to suss out how well the graphs perform on a live college network with a projector; and whether I can download them to use offline so that they run faster and more robustly.

I also need to sort how to insert into web pages so I can access them from an intranet – or from a blog! – so I may have to break the habit of a lifetime, and read the instructions fully and carefully.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | course team | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Never knowingly underperformed

In the 1800s, my family worked in the New Lanark cotton mills which were owned and managed by enlightened men who combined a sharp eye for productivity and the bottom line with concern for the social well-being of their workers, and society as a whole. This may help explain why I feel at ease with effective and entrepreneurial social enterprises – such as further education.

There seems to be a strand of political thinking which is exploring how a sense of entrepreneurship and ownership can be brought into the public services – particularly with the NHS: “employee partnerships” running NHS organisations “nurses and doctors” involved in governing; turning hospitals into “employee owned trusts”
There is an attractive John Lewis style model here for a public service facing years of relative austerity, and the politicians would be looking to a culture of co-ownership which would boost productivity – doing more for less.

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January 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment