WCET propels american higher education system



The WICHE (Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education) Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) is a cooperative, membership-driven, non-profit provider of solutions and services that accelerate the adoption of effective practices and policies, advancing excellence in technology-enhanced teaching and learning in higher education. WCET manages a number of national initiatives including the PAR Framework Project.

WCET first began operating in 1989 to meet the growing need to integrate distance education and educational technology into the academic services of higher education institutions across the 15 western states belonging to WICHE. WCET – which has no physical office, only distributed workers – has evolved beyond its western roots to encompass a national scope in its collaborative membership focused on evaluating and sharing best practices in technology-enhanced teaching and learning.

In 2011, as part of a goal set by President Barack Obama to increase the percentage of adult in the United States aged 25-34 who have received a post secondary credential and move the U.S. from the #6 position globally to #1 by 2020 in terms of college graduates, WCET began initial design of a collaborative, multi-institutional data-mining project – the Predictive Analytics Reporting (PAR) Framework – with a goal to yield benchmarks for student success. PAR’s collection of anonymized institutional data and the associated analysis results are aimed at helping higher education systems understand factors that contribute to student momentum and create models that can help institutions remove barriers to student success.

In order to facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing with the current sixteen college and university research partners located across the United States, the PAR Framework project team needed to keep information in a central location that project staff and collaborators could access no matter where they were physically located. PAR was using an open source learning management system, but found that it was the wrong tool for collaboration as the program grew in part because it did not scale for the number of participants and quantity of data that will be generated during this phase of development.

The PAR Framework team established a comprehensive set of requirements that facilitated easy and secure file sharing and collaboration among teams of 40-50 or more across many sub-research projects. PAR considered a number of solutions, including Basecamp, OneHub, Central Desktop, Google and more, but found that Huddle provided the best mix of features and functionality to fit their complex scaling, file sharing and collaboration needs.

“Originally we thought we would need less than 50 Huddle licenses,” said Beth Davis, business strategist for WCET and the PAR Framework Project Director. “But we’re finding that people are really using it and it’s spreading virally. We have strong growth projections, so it’s important to us that we can scale to thousands of institutional partners to reach every college and university in the United States. Because of that goal, we’ve been evaluating Huddle’s ROI in terms of scalability, usage and efficiency. Often we work with people in institutional organizations reluctant to process change but we’ve been surprised that even they are jumping onto Huddle with very little pushback.”

With Huddle, PAR is better able to collect, collaborate on and share data and information with its institutional partners across the United States. As PAR and its data sets grow in quantity and size, Huddle will scale alongside the organization to facilitate easier collaboration and content management.

“Huddle is a natural part of our project on-boarding process; because it’s so easy to add users and securely manage documents, I can foresee Huddle being a central part of the way we operate. Huddle serves our purposes and our use is only going to increase as we generate data and results,” Davis added.