Advanced Analytics Summit to offer forum for best practices

Steve Wisniewski, vice provost for Data and Information


Pitt will host its second summit on using advanced analytics in higher education next week, and Steve Wisniewski, vice provost for Data and Information, says, “I think by doing this, we are establishing ourselves as a thought leader in the field.”

Wisniewski says that although some large higher education organizations, like the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, have held seminars on specific uses of analytics in academia, Pitt may be the first to bring together people from all parts of higher education to share ideas and best practices in analytics.

The Advanced Analytics Summit will be Oct. 17 and 18 at the University Club. More than 100 people from schools all over the United States, and even a late registrant from Spain, will participate. Wisniewski says they reached out mostly to larger public universities who share some of the same issues as Pitt.

The keynote speaker is Amelia Parnell, vice president for research and policy at the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and co-editor of the newly released book, “The Analytics Revolution in Higher Education.”

Some of the sessions include:

  • Evaluating the Impact of Digital Content on Student Course Outcomes

  • Supporting Faculty Adoption of Advanced Analytics

  • Implementation of Federal Data Sharing Laws

  • Getting Ready for Kickoff: Building a Data Analytics Program in College Athletics

“The whole gamut needs to be addressed. There’s not one area where we’re saying, we need to focus on analytics in this area,” Wisniewski says. “And I think you see that in this year’s program. And I think that’s one of the strengths. … We’re trying to look at the broader picture, to try to get information flowing from one unit of the institution to the other.”

The presenters also come from different fields in higher education and from all over the country, including the University of Texas at Austin, Arizona State and University of Delaware. Three Pitt administrators will lead the session on student course outcomes, and administrators from Penn State and Carnegie Mellon universities will discuss engagement and transparency.

From last year’s summit, Pitt got ideas from other institutions on reducing the “DFW rate” (when students get a D or F or withdraw from a class) in large introductory courses in science and on making sure transfer students are having outcomes as good as everybody else.

One of the key areas in which Pitt has been using advanced analytics is enrollment, Wisniewski says. For instance, analytics can help predict who among the students who are accepted into Pitt will eventually end up going here.

The benefits to Pitt in hosting the summit are twofold, Wisniewski says. “We’re always looking to do better and this is one of the ways we can learn. And it allows us to show off a bit and build our own reputation.”

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.


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