A few weeks ago I got an email and spent an hour with Sarah Tanksalvala on the phone talking about ‘Bringing Quantitative Data To the Accreditation Process.” It is nice to see now the blog post available. A couple of friends found it and commented on LinkedIn that it’s short but I think it covers a few key points worth emphasizing here:
There’s increased complexity in the way higher education is being viewed, there’s the element that wants higher education to be more responsive to consumer-type metrics, and there’s also an element highlighting the longer term and more transcendent value of higher education. Much more has been written about this aspect in the award winning Value Scorecard research I initiated with Stephen Town a few years ago and he has elaborated and built and published much more since then.
Any kind of documentation that helps you understand your performance is useful … the real value of accreditation is ensuring that there’s a process for how you can use this data, so in many ways it’s a kind of process improvement mechanism. Data is gold and in the right hands mining them turns into precious little and big things. There is a reason why Google wants to grab as much data as they can get their hands on these days. There is also a reason why pirate efforts like Sci-Hub are popular. They are bringing together huge amounts of data. Mining these data in new, agile and flexible ways is doable.
When we think about metrics and evidence, we need to be cognizant that we have to meet different needs and quality might be a different thing for different processes. There may be pockets of excellence in certain areas and room for improvement in other areas. I spent much time in the last fifteen years preaching what quality is to libraries all over the world. Quality much like beauty is in the eye of the beholder as my colleague Danuta Nitecki told me many years ago. I use the Beauty and the Beast image sometimes to convey this notion.
The processes we have in place help us articulate where we deliver high quality and where we need to improve. We have seen many libraries being able to to improve their quality over the last few years because they were able to use the evidence and the data they derive from their surveys — yet others just place the report on their shelves because their culture and processes prevent them from using this evidence.
Ultimately showing that you can use evidence and make good changes is what matters!