The little spreadsheet that could, and did: crowdsourcing COVID-19, higher education, data, and stories

By | March 15, 2020
The little spreadsheet that could, and did: crowdsourcing COVID-19, higher education, data, and stories

From bryanalexander.org

I’ve been tracking the global coronavirus since early February, with a focus on how it impacts higher education worldwide. That tracking has meant blogging here , tweeting , and creating a resource post .  […]

Several days ago I came up with the idea of tracking college and university responses to the outbreak. Specifically, I was interested in how academia migrated education online. I saw how one part of this migration often included suspending face-to-face classes, if not shutting down entire campuses. I wanted more data and stories.

Not finding a good resource, I did the web/Generation X thing and made one. Over on my personal Google Drive I set up a simple spreadsheet with a few columns: name of institution, their schedule for going online and/or closing, misc. notes, and also supporting documentation.

I could have kept this private. Heck, it could have been an Excel file on one of my desktops. But I’m an old Web 2.0 fan, a lover of what the open web can accomplish, and am also very very busy. So I decided to open the Sheet and tell the world, hoping folks would contribute data, correction, and stories.

Did they ever.

Within hours the spreadsheet grew. More campuses appeared. Folks added extra columns for more data. Still more colleges and universities appeared.

Then the geniuses at Ithaka S+R, led by the splendid Christine Wolff-Eisenberg, really went to town. They hauled in IPEDS data and deployed a dozen extra columns. Why? Now we could automatically have fields populated with institutional type, geographical location (including lat and lon), student headcount, and more. Student headcount meant we – any user, actually – could generate a live count of how many enrolled students were impacted (2,972,409 as of this writing). 4 columns became 13. A dozen rows became a hundred, then more. Tabs for worksheets popped up. […]