Splunk executive lays out university IT projects to refresh over summer
At first glance, college campuses seem to slow down during the summer months as students flood away from their institutions for an extended break from academic life. But for university personnel, in particular campus IT, the summer break represents the ideal testing ground for new opportunities and system upgrades.
In a recent piece for EdScoop, Splunk’s VP of Public Sector, Kevin Davis, lays out his top three university IT projects that are perfect to tackle during the summer.
Davis hones in on some of the trends that campus IT and higher education at large have been recognizing with regards to big data. Specifically the very important, ongoing discussions regarding the use and interpretation of data to improve campus services and the student experience.
Leverage data to improve student academic outcomes
A growing topic of interest in the campus card community has been the use of data to improve student academic outcomes. It’s arguably one of the top services that an institution can provide for students. With student engagement residing at the heart of the conversation, universities are actively looking at ways to improve both retention rates and degree progression and graduation.
Davis highlights work being done at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) where university officials found that log data acquired from Blackboard Learn showed valuable information regarding students’ behavioral patterns. UNLV has examined everything from how long a student looks at a discussion board to what study guides they access. After correlating the user data with other data sets, the university can reasonably predict which students’ grades are at risk, and for which courses.
On the transaction side, the University of Arizona has made significant strides in the realm of campus card data interpretation thanks to the work of university researcher, Sudha Ram. Ram’s Smart Campus research is tracking students’ social interactions and daily routines via CatCard usage — Arizona’s student ID — and leveraging that information to predict freshman retention.
Thanks in part to Ram’s research Arizona now generates lists — twice per semester and twice in the summer — of the top 20% of students most at-risk in each college. The lists are then shared with the individual colleges, with the idea that advisers will reach out to students who need additional support or guidance.
Optimize security risk investigation, detection
Davis’ second summer IT project relates to the cyber security of both the campus and its members. With network abuse and security threats on the rise, he suggests campus IT use the summer to be proactive. Davis points to Duke University, and its goal of mitigating threats before they escalate.
Using data it was already collecting, Duke tracks where most of its incoming junk mail, and potential phishing attempts, originate. Using the resulting data, university staff have altered the filters on incoming messages to reduce the amount of malicious spam landing in student inboxes.
Increase operational visibility to get ahead of outages
Whether it’s the Wi-Fi or a campus card database failure, service outages on campus are insufferable headaches. With this in mind, Davis suggests devoting the summer to reevaluating key systems to avoid massive downtimes when campuses fill up again in the fall.
Davis suggests up-to-date software that can consolidate and visualize all IT information. This can help improve insights into IT infrastructure, speed up troubleshooting efforts and cut down on working hours.
Emergencies will happen, but the key is being prepared for when things get crazy. Another way to alleviate the headache is to establish a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.
Take the time to create and define what systems should be tested and how often. This leads to the entire institution being more comfortable with the plan, and ultimately increase response times when an issue inevitably occurs. How well you prepare now will determine how effective and efficient you’ll be when disaster strikes.
While the summer months may mark a vacation for students, it can be the perfect environment for campus IT to hit “refresh” and prep for the coming academic year. So dive in, the water’s fine!