By Jeff Alderson, Principal Analyst
Nearly all colleges and universities make use of public datasets as part of institutional research and other enterprise-wide data analytics projects. While these projects must leverage data from sources like IPEDS, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau, it typically falls upon researchers to map these sources to each other, as well as to local datasets hosted at the college. This process requires valuable time that could be better spent on research.
Enter Information as a Service (IaaS). It is similar to the concept of Software as a Service (SaaS), in which a vendor provides subscription-based access to an enterprise software application hosted either on its servers or the cloud. In this case, the application delivers the output of algorithms, or analyzed data, in easy-to-read reports and interfaces. The user can quickly consume the information, take a recommended action, or identify content related to their query. Today, we recap our conversations with two IaaS providers that are solving complex issues for colleges and universities.
On-Demand, Public Reference Data for the Masses
We met with Dan Quigg, CEO of Public Insight to discuss how it helps institutions make sense of freely available public data sources through its cloud-based IaaS offering. With a single login to the Public Insight application, researchers can query across one or more data domains to synthesize reports and dashboards that link various data elements and common identifiers.
Of particular note is the capability to access the information you need in as few as two to three clicks, grouped by domains such as enrollment, demographics, or occupations. Public Insight also has plans for an API service as part of its platform that will be separately priced and available by early summer 2015. This will allow colleges and other vendors to just use the collection of mapped datasets through an API data service and integrate it with their local systems and services.
Content Discovery for the Netflix Generation of Researchers
We recently welcomed Oren Beit-Arie, Chief Strategy Officer of ExLibris, to our Boston office to discuss its novel approach to library content curation, cataloging, discovery and delivery. ExLibris is doing for content collections within libraries what Netflix has done for movies and television shows. By recommending content to students, faculty and researchers that is relevant to their stated interests and highly recommended by other users of their cloud offerings, ExLibris is accelerating the delivery of critical information from library collections to those who need it most.
ExLibris’ main offering is an end-user portal for the discovery of and access to institutional collections as well as a wide range of global content. This content includes subscription-based and free, open content, such as articles, e-books, non-textual digital collections, and research data. While the principal buyer at a college may be library services, the solution really shines for faculty and students once the library collections have been fully indexed.
ExLibris is committed to innovation in the library technology domain. Initiatives include a reading list product that recommends content to students based upon faculty syllabi to be stored in learning management systems (LMS).
Here’s how this might work for instructional design:
- Library services staff index content according to keywords, themes, and academic topics. Indexed content is immediately made available to users of other integrated ExLibris products.
- Faculty receive recommendations of newly available content based on their academic area of interest and instructional profiles. They then rank that content on its applicability and relevance to the courses they teach.
- Instructional designers review the paradata from faculty and integrate content elements, which are tied to learning standards and rubrics within the LMS, dragging in content links from the library collections using tools built on LTI.
We like the potential for IaaS in higher education. Eduventures believes that as the content managed within library technology platforms is unlocked and made accessible to other enterprise systems and as researchers are able to spend more time researching, instruction and learning will be greatly improved. When content is this highly discoverable by faculty and learners, the design of traditional and online courses will be vastly improved.
Request a vendor briefing with our Technology Research Team.