Interpreting data ...

Having a modest, yet comparatively sizeable population on a module. We have enjoyed a very (very) modest increase in numbers. Not the kind to get excited by, but enough to show normal variance within a trend.

I get a call from a well known vendor, we all know who they are. The quite sensible soul is telling me that their data shows we are down.

Really? Trying to fathom what is happening, as our status quo is showing modest improvement. Looking at the figures yesterday and analysing ones own over the last couple of weeks we both came to an admirable consensus.

Their data is meaningless as it seems to be asking all the wrong questions; which the uninitiated would take as fact.

Last year (2013) the OU moved its presentational pattern for Level 2 modules. Which means that we had a module start in Feb and another start in Oct. This year, we ran the module in Oct, as we are now in pattern.

Can you you see the surge and sudden drop. For the OU, when we have double presentations, we still see them in terms of academic years. One was late into the 12/13 year, the other near the beginning of the 13/14 year. We now have another module starting in 14/15 year and numbers are reasonable.

For all three presentations, the numbers have wobbled around a norm of 400 ... we have had worse, we do get better. At scale, this is normative.

However, in the vendors world, they seem to see the academic world in quarters and following a western solar year. Not an academic year, which many of their 'academy' partners naturally follow.

In the preceding calendar year, we were up according to their measures, this year we are down by the same measures. Yet all we see is modest improvement.

So ... and yes this is the conclusive statement. Please treat with caution all data you ever see and ask what it is measuring. If the data is meaningless, it takes the intervention of a moderately intelligent ape to give it some value. Otherwise, you could cause serious damage to many more fragile academic organisations. Fortunately, the soul asking the questions, is smart enough not to believe all that the data is telling them.


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