Published November 7, 2023

This is the first installment of our Data In Action series, highlighting the many ways Unizin members leverage data from the UDP to inform decision-making across their institutions.

The average Unizin Data Platform (UDP) is over 11 terabytes, made up of relational and click-stream data about learners and the learning environment. Turning these data into information takes personnel at our member institutions with specific technical expertise, such as SQL and data visualization. As the UDP evolves, Unizin is working to identify common uses of specific data found within the UDP, create user-driven data marts with these data, and create targeted data visualizations in Google’s Looker Studio. 

One example of this is the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) tool use data mart. The original design of the LTI mart was to help identify specific ed tech tools launched in specific courses across an institution, that could be filtered by campus, college, and department. Use cases for these data include supporting student success staff to identify students who were in a situation where they had to learn 10+ tools in a semester. Students in those situations may benefit from extra support to navigate successfully this scenario. Another use case that surfaced dealt more with financial considerations, such as a better understanding of not only the number of courses leveraging a specific tool but also the intensity of that tool’s usage. Are students using an ed tech tool once, or a hundred times, as part of a course? These data can help an institution make informed decisions regarding enterprise licensing, and whether or not they are getting the perceived value from a tool based on the licensing cost. 

Andy Fisher, Manager of Learning Engagement at Penn State, shared another use case recently that deals with change management. Leading the team that works to integrate ed tech tools with Canvas, Andy often deals with migrating integrations from earlier LTI versions to the more robust LTI v1.3. With over 15,000 courses running every semester across Penn State’s 23 campuses, this can be a challenge! Using the Looker Studio visualization of LTI launches, Andy is able to quickly see the number of courses that are using a specific LTI integration, and directly message faculty about LTI 1.3 migration plans.

For example, Penn State planned to retire the Office 365 LTI integration in fall 2023, migrating all users to Microsoft OneDrive LTI 1.3. The messaging campaign throughout the summer was successful, though the fall still saw some teachers using the older Office 365 integration within Canvas. 

A screenshot from the LTI Tool Launch Looker Studio Dashboard

A screenshot from the LTI Tool Launch Looker Studio Dashboard

We pulled the list of courses from the dashboard and then reached out to the instructors about the new integration.  Without the dashboard, we had no other way to quickly determine activity or obtain a course list to proactively reach out to instructors” said Fisher. “The last thing we want is a scenario where faculty are searching for a specific LTI integration they used in previous semesters, and are unable to find it within Canvas. The ability to reach out to individual faculty based on data is a real benefit in successfully managing these LTI upgrades.”

As the UDP continues to evolve, assets like data marts will ensure that Unizin members find utility, value, and insight to inform decision-making and support technology evolution. Data marts bring modularity, functionality, and flexibility to raw data and calculated data tables that, in isolation, would be unwieldy to use. They can provide clear representations of student activity across ed tech tools, as well as student behaviors indicative of success in a course, semester, or academic program.