The Digital UniTN

Universities produce massive amounts of data during their normal operation; nevertheless, this
information often remains scattered across several datasets under the control of different departments.
For example, publications, teaching materials, research publication documents, and research data are
all normally stored under different information systems with different data structures and different
terminology.
Given this so-called “data heterogeneity problem”, it becomes really hard to correlate and link valuable
information across organizational units of the university and thus to obtain a holistic view on the
performance of the university as a whole. Valuable produced data is discarded or lost when it could
have been analyzed to inform institutional strategic lines and produce important metrics that would help
situate gauge each actor within the university but also the university within the world.
The intrinsic diversity of data in terms of format, schema, vocabulary and language represents the main
challenge to overcome when targeting sharing, interoperation, and the creation of analytics-ready
datasets. Furthermore, universities are living institutions that are constantly generating more
information and changing their data structures and vocabularies. As such, a discrete data integration
approach would leave the integrated data outdated shortly after being finished.
The main purpose of Digital University project is to transform the university data into a valuable and
easy exploitable asset. It also aims to incentivize people generating and working with this data to adopt
a governance strategy and a culture of data quality and sharing/reusing across the university.
As a key result, it also becomes possible to offer multiple digital services to a wide university audience
(professors, researchers, students, employees, alumni, etc.). These services do not only improve how
the university presents itself to the world or knows itself, but also positively impact how it
uses/disseminates the knowledge it creates, and increase the overall efficiency and transparency of the
institution.
Another important result is that it becomes possible to assess and create metrics about the university
more efficiently, accurately, and crucially in a much less expensive manner than with regular
assessment interventions. Rankings and metrics about scientific production, academic performance for
teachers and students, privacy management and, in general, the identification of the institution’s
stronger and weaker points, all represent a valuable support to decision-making processes.
The Digital University portal is currently in production for the University of Trento, managing the
scientific production of about 600 faculty members, over 5000 papers and documents, and almost 200
projects. Furthermore, a successful pilot of has been carried out in the University Jilin on 2017.
The solution adopted at the University of Trento has achieved the following objectives:

  • a scalable, easy-to-use, and secure IT infrastructure that is able to store and provide uniform
    access to key knowledge assets of the university, such as publications, courses, projects, and
    experts’ profiles on top of which multiple digital services can be developed;
  • a first set of public digital services, in particular, the multilingual university website;
  • a first set of restricted-access digital services, such as university dashboards as well as
    consistent and improved reporting both at the level of the whole university and at the level of
    single offices and academic departments, guaranteeing an efficient and effective data
    collection, fewer errors, streamlined activity, and cleaner data.

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