How to partner with IT to build a dashboard for community college administrators


It's a common problem in any industry: getting a large number of similar requests for information. But with limited resources and an already overburdened staff, how do you handle it?

At El Paso Coanalysts and IT shake handsmmunity College, analysts from the Institutional Research (IR) team enlisted the help of IT to create a data warehouse and a dashboard to make reports easily accessible for anyone who needed information while at the same time freeing up time for the analysts.

In particular, they needed a dashboard that would display key performing indicators (KPI) including demographics, student performance, college growth and more. In all, they wanted one central place where everyone could go to get accurate, timely information.

Presenters Christina C. Frescas (Research Associate), Angeles Vazquez (Statistical Research Associate), and Carlos Molina-Torres (Sr. Programmer Analyst) discussed the collaborative solution during their session at The Texas Association for Institutional Research (TAIR) conference.

The benefits of partnering with IT

By collaborating with IT they were able to determine what information was being asked for most frequently and understand the reporting priorities to work on first.

IR also assisted the IT programmers to better understand the college's data, including where it comes from and any specific nuances. Both IR and IT worked together to create a process in which they discuss projects and any data warehouse modifications or updates and continuously review the status and dashboard work completed.

How did the collaboration benefit both teams? They obtained a greater understanding of the data because both departments could now fill in any information gaps. According to the presenters, they also gained a greater understanding of their users and were able to format dashboards with them in mind. Plus, the dashboards were built quicker than if either department had to build them by themselves.

Benefits of the project include:

  • Administrators now have one central place to go to get immediate access to accurate and timely data and reports.
  • The reports have data integrity and consistency since there is only one version to maintain in one central place.
  • Efficient report maintenance and management eliminates duplicate efforts and tasks for both departments.
  • Nightly refreshes ensure dashboards are populated with the most up-to-date data.
  • Both departments are saving time since multitude of requests no longer tax their limited resources.

For example, one report called the Historical Comparison report used to take almost 6 hours to run manually using Microsoft Access and Excel. Now it only takes two to three minutes to run in SAS. With that time freed up, they are able to proactively develop more dashboards and increase the size and accuracy of their data warehouse.

Using the dashboard to help students

Now that users have discovered the advantages of having easy access to data and reports, and the usefulness of data, they're requesting more reports and getting more sophisticated in their use of data, which has fueled the dashboard’s growth.

One discovery will help change the way first-time college students (FTICs) are supported. At most community colleges, the majority of students are enrolled part-time, and this is also true for El Paso. However, once their data warehouse and dashboards were complete, administrators discovered that their FTICs were in fact mostly full-time. Now that they're aware of this, they can better help these students on their path to success.

Interested in learning more? In previous TAIR conference coverage, we learned how the University of Oklahoma is using predictive analytics for student recruitment and retention. Or, read more examples of self-service analytics in higher education. Finally, the SAS higher education website has more information on how we partner with universities to help with their data, analytics and reporting needs.


About Author

Georgia Mariani

Principal Product Marketing Manager

Georgia Mariani has spent nearly a quarter-century exploring and sharing how analytics can improve outcomes. As a Principal Industry Marketing Manager at analytics leader SAS, supporting the education industry, she passionately showcases customers using analytics to tackle important education issues and help students succeed. Georgia received her M.S. in Mathematics with a concentration in Statistics from the University of New Orleans.

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