Activity data – delivering benefits from the data deluge

We are pleased to announce a new report that explores how activity data and analytics can benefit universities and proposes how institutions can cope with the associated challenges and opportunities. The report is called Activity data – delivering benefits from the data deluge and is available on the Jisc website now. The eagle eyed will have spotted a link to it in the current issue of Jisc inform.

The report was written by David Kay of Sero Consulting and Mark van Harmelen of Headtek and it builds on the work we have been doing with activity data over the last couple of years. Over those two years it has felt that activity data has moved from being a relatively fringe and immature area in universities to something that is likely to be of vital importance in the next few years.

I think that this is emphasised by a flurry of exciting new developments. My colleague Myles Danson has worked with CETIS to release the Analytics Series. This is a series of seven useful and interesting reports that explore analytics from a number of different angles. This includes thinking about the implications for research and teaching and learning.

I’ll pause here to explain what I see as the difference between analytics and activity data. Analytics is a broad heading for the mining of data to inform business decisions or provide improved services to end users. Activity data is one type of data that falls under the analytics heading. Activity data specifically focuses on the data recorded about a user’s actions when they interact with a website or software or even a physical space.

Another exciting development is a project to explore a shared library analytics service. This project is seeking to develop a pilot shared service that builds on some of the experiments we have been doing in our activity data work. It is expected to complete in Autumn 2013 and should provide libraries with a useful new way to study how their services are working and to gather data to inform crucial decisions over allocation of resources. More detail will be available on this soon.

One project that will be an important part of delivering the library analytics suite will be Huddersfield’s Library Impact Data project. They released version 2 of their toolkit last week. So if you can’t wait for the library analytics suite to start exploring your library activity data then head over to their blog for more information.

So, there is a lot going on. That makes the Activity Data report even more timely since it provides an accessible and useful introduction to the topic. The report discusses the benefits that are on offer to institutions. It includes case studies on UK and US institutions who are leading the way with activity data. It finishes by offering some pointers on strategies that may be useful in getting ready to seize the opportunities offered by activity data.

This is a fast moving area and it looks like 2013 should see some even more exciting developments.