The LinkIt! Team
Data warehouses are a key piece of many organizations' analytical toolkits, but what do these platforms actually do and why are they gaining in popularity? A report by research firm Global Market Insights shows that the data warehousing market size exceeded USD 13 billion globally in 2018 and that it is estimated to grow at over 12% per year between 2019 and 2025. This immense growth in the data warehousing market is a direct result of the increasing amount of data being generated both by business enterprises and government agencies, including K–12 school districts, and the ever-growing need for a way to use it all to its fullest advantage.
A variety of industries are now weaving these integrated systems into their market intelligence strategies and the education sector is a good example. When properly implemented, a data warehouse provides key stakeholders with access to crucial data related to student performance and growth that can be used to support decisions related to instruction, intervention, and resource allocation more generally. In addition, data warehousing allows schools to comply with government regulations and protect the privacy of their students.
For large organizations, achieving positive and repeatable results depends increasingly on the ability to collect and utilize complex data. For many businesses, cultivating a deep skillset in this area has become a unique competitive advantage, but how does this apply to schools? Let’s take a closer look at what data warehouses are and why they have become such an important pillar of the K–12 technology ecosystem.
Simply put, a data warehouse is a software platform that provides a mechanism to streamline the collection and organization of data so that it can be easily accessed and analyzed. In other words, it's a way to make your data more available, more manageable, and more meaningful; an important tool that all organizations should consider in order to improve their decision-making processes.
Big data analytics are allowing businesses across all industries to achieve levels of insight that were once impossible. In the context of business, this typically is associated with increased productivity, operational efficiencies, and of course, greater profitability. And, while schools are not motivated by profit, as you can imagine, schools manage A LOT of diverse data - data warehousing has been the key to making that happen. The data being handled by the education system includes things such as student demographic information, grades, assessment scores, attendance and behavioral records and these are just a few examples. Bigger districts often warehouse financial, HR and teacher information beyond traditional instructional data warehousing. By understanding how data is collected, sorted, and used, educators can make more informed decisions about everything, from curriculum development to student placement.
Data warehousing enables teachers and administrators to gain a better understanding of student performance and growth, teaching effectiveness, course enrollment and school trends more generally. By compiling information in a single location, schools can use data to identify areas for improvement and make smarter decisions about how to allocate resources.
Implementing a data warehouse can be a complex process, but it is well worth the effort for the benefits that it provides. By taking the time to analyze and store data, schools can make better decisions based on factual information rather than relying only on assumptions or hunches. From an accountability and technology standpoint, schools can now ask teachers "what do you know about a student and how vs. what you feel and think" by accessing data and student work. It is often the case that data supports “gut-based” decisions that come from either years of experience or the natural instinct that many educators seem to have, but using the data to either support or refute conclusions drawn from instinct invariably leads to better outcomes for students.
Data warehousing and data mining are two essential aspects of big data and, though they have very distinct purposes, they are often confused with one another. Understanding the difference between the two is important for organizations that want to make the most of their data.
Data warehousing is used to store data so that it can be accessed later. It is the process of collecting data and organizing it into a structure that can be easily utilized on-demand in order to help answer key questions that may arise. Data mining is used to find patterns in data so that management decisions can be made that leverage these patterns and the insights drawn from them: It is the process of extracting knowledge from large data sets.
Both data warehousing and data mining are valuable tools that can help improve educational institutions, and while they each have their own individual purposes, they work together to provide a more holistic understanding of the vast amount of available data.
Since 1990, when Bill Inmon first coined the term, data warehouses have steadily become a critical infrastructure for making data analytics more accessible to educators. Without a data warehouse to serve as a central repository, data has a tendency to remain siloed in various technology products, such as a district’s student information system (SIS) or platforms that support content related to a specific product or publisher. At LinkIt!, we often have clients comment that they prefer to view and analyze their assessment data from other platforms via LinkIt! because it enables teachers to access what they need in a single location. In this manner, the challenges associated with having multiple systems to log into with different reporting interfaces and navigation can be avoided or minimized. Moreover, consolidating data in a single location enables disparate data sets to be triangulated, generating a more complete picture of the whole student. In short, a strong data warehouse solution provides K–12 educators with:
● A common look and feel (similar color-coding, reporting styles, navigation)
● Streamlined functionality for common actions, such as printing, exporting, and sharing
● A flexible data architecture that can accommodate multiple data types
Data can be intimidating to begin with, so having a "one-stop-shop" helps make using data practical, saves time, and provides better analytical insight because of the multiple sources of data that are available.
By understanding how data warehousing works and by using it to analyze student performance, educators can gain a deeper understanding of what is happening in classrooms, not just in isolation, but school and district-wide, and even over extended periods of time. Maximizing insights from the available data is often achieved or supported by a parallel process of data mining to identify important trends and patterns. Though there are fewer solutions on the market that specifically address this need, LinkIt! Navigator is one data mining solution that is specifically designed for K–12 school systems and may be used in combination with any data warehouse. Read our K-12 guide to data warehousing here for a look at what features and benefits LinkIt! offers.
Data warehouses have come to be a staple in the K-12 education system, an invaluable tool that greatly increases student success and teacher efficacy. We hope that this article has inspired you to investigate data warehousing further as a way to improve your decision-making process. If you're looking for a powerful data warehouse solution that is also easy to use, contact our team for a brief consultation or even a web-based LinkIt! demo. With its powerful features and user-friendly interface, our platform makes it easy, so contact us today to learn more about how we can help you unlock the incredible value of your data.
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