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What does the Data Matters Conference offer data experts?

Data matters

This is a guest blog from Marieke Guy, Data Analyst in the QAA Evaluation and Analytics Team, about the upcoming Data Matters conference (3 November).

Following the opening keynote by Paul Clark, chief executive of HESA, the plenaries by Doctor Bart Rienties, Professor of Learning Analytics at the Open University, and Doctor Rufus Pollock, Founder and President of Open Knowledge, will be a compelling start to the day. Both will look at how data is changing the world and, specifically, the HE sector.

Data Matters brings together data, digital and quality experts from across higher education to discuss data and its use. 


Bart's work has focused on learning analytics, big data and social interaction in learning. An increasing number of HE providers are starting to grapple with learning analytics, often as a solution to the retention problem, but there is also evidence to show that it has much to offer support in learning and teaching. We ask students to share significant amounts of data with us yet still fail to offer comparable personalisation services to those that private companies (like Amazon) provide - this tailoring could, and will, be applied soon to student learning and the student experience. Bart will share his team’s insights from this vast programme of research.

This one day conference aims to increase the knowledge, efficiency, and data capabilities of data experts in the data driven higher education landscape. 

In founding Open Knowledge International, a global non-profit organisation focused on realising open data's value to society, Rufus made a commitment to transparency and realising the social value of data. He is renowned for his observation that "the best thing to do with your data will be thought of by someone else," and continues to work on frictionless data - a lightweight containerisation format for data that allows data to be shared and validated easily. Rufus works outside of HE with government and large IGOs such as the World Bank and the UN, and he will share with us an interesting and unique perspective on the potential of data for good.

In the afternoon a facilitated panel session with senior representatives from the three M5 organisations (HESA, Jisc and QAA) responsible for the conference, will look at recent developments in the HE data landscape and discuss how the sector can embrace this change.

The day closes by a longitudinal look at data in HE from data expert Andy Youell, Director of Data Policy & Governance, HESA. Andy has spent 25 years working with data and information in HE. Recently he has been Director of the Higher Education Data & Information Improvement Programme (HEDIIP) which leads on arrangements for the collection, sharing, and dissemination of data about HE. Andy is at the vanguard of change in this area and so will have some valuable insights from the day to share.

Moving on to the workshops, where some great sessions will appeal to the more data savvy out there.

Data Matters is essential for all HE professionals who are working with or interested in the usage of HE data, its analysis and complexities

Haven't heard of the Jisc/HESA Business Intelligence Analytics Labs yet? Then visit the session (Business intelligence and data visualisation (analytics labs)) lead by Myles Danson and Janette Hillicks of Jisc. They will look at how dashboards and visualisations can support the work you do. The Effective benchmarking using Heidi Plus workshop follows on neatly from the analytics lab session, and setting meaningful benchmarks is a vital skill to master when using Heidi Plus.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is going to have a big impact on anyone working with data, and we are all going to need to get clued up, so make sure you attend the session on Getting to grips with GDPR led by David Reeve of Jisc. Even data experts benefit from learning more about the metrics used by government, and beyond, to measure our providers.

The Data and quality assurance session led by Helen Cullis and Paul Hazell of QAA will give a practical overview of who collects data in HE and for what it is used, including the current status of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and the Annual Provider Review (APR). To support this, you may want to check out the Becoming data capable session, led by Dan Kidd and Gabby Green of HESA, which explores what effective data management and governance looks like. As statistician W. Edwards Deming once said: "Quality is everyone's responsibility," and he was most definitely talking about data!

So there is much to tempt data experts in. We hope to see you at Data Matters in London on 3 November 2017.

- Marieke Guy is a Data Analyst in the QAA Evaluation and Analytics Team

Data Matters conference programme

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This is a guest blogpost. The views of the author do not necessarily reflect the views of HESA.