A Grounded Study of Higher Education Leaders’ Perspectives on ‘Big Data’
Committee MemberChilds, Ruth
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AbstractHigher Education (HE) institutions are facing a series of transformative challenges. From the increasingly pervasive use of Internet Communications Technology (ICT) to relative decreasing public investment and learner demographic changes, HE leaders are seeking new ways to improve learning environments and increase cost-effectiveness. ‘Big Data’ is an ICT technology that records and analyses massive sets of complex data to reveal previously hidden correlations linked to organizational performance. While ‘Big Data’ is widely implemented in sectors such as retail and healthcare, adoption in the HE sector is relatively sluggish. The purpose of the study is to develop a conceptual framework that describes and explains the adoption of ‘Big Data’ technology in the Alberta HE sector. A constructivist approach to grounded theory method is utilized to develop the conceptual framework from seven semi-structured interviews with HE leaders employed in a variety of HE institutions in Alberta. The study concludes that the adoption of ‘Big Data’ at HE institutions is impeded by IT governance that prioritizes risk mitigation through deductive reasoning. ‘Big Data’ proposals are not able to meet IT governance requirements. ‘Big Data’ project proposals are unconvincing because they require data collection and analysis before problems and cost-effective solutions are identified. Despite the challenges, HE leaders in the study demonstrate adaptive organizational learning through small scale ‘Big Data’ workarounds. Despite the slow pace to date, ‘Big Data’ adoption is poised to increase as educational technology venders begin integrating capacities in existing products – surmounting current IT governance and risk mitigation challenges. While acknowledging the potential of ‘Big Data’, the study also encourages a strengthening of HE leaders’ ethical understandings, particularly as more advanced predictive and prescriptive analytics emerge and begin to impact learners and other HE stakeholders.
CitationHarvey, D. (2022). A grounded study of Higher Education leaders’ perspectives on ‘Big Data’ (Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.
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