6 examples of data management, reporting and analytics in higher education


Today in higher education, savvy users expect to have the information they need to make data-informed decisions at their fingertips. As such, leaders in institutional research (IR) are under pressure to provide these users with accurate data, reports and analyses. IR has been tasked with transforming data and reports in a visual and interactive platform that’s easy to use and accessible anywhere.

In a previous post, I shared some education examples for reporting and analytics. I wanted to share some additional examples from presentations at the recent AIR Forum.

Example 1: Tips on the journey from data management to visual reporting

We’ve all heard the adage “garage in - garbage out.” Users must be able to trust the data and view the reports as a reliable resource. Those concepts were key when The University of Tennessee and The University of Oklahoma began their journey from data management to visual reporting. They knew that dashboards – no matter how flashy – aren’t useful if the underlying data isn’t accurate. As such, they strongly recommend that formal data governance is in place prior to beginning a data warehouse and selecting a tool. In addition, they suggest procuring input from IT and reporting stakeholders; ideally a full partnership would be most beneficial. Also, consider having a roadmap of the reporting/dashboards output.

As far as visual reporting, they suggest asking yourself: “Will this satisfy our most challenging campus customer?” And both shared some tips to consider when considering visual reporting solutions. The ideal solution will:

  • Make data more self-service.
  • Be easy to use.
  • Provide access on/off campus.
  • Work with multiple OS and mobile devices.
  • Allow for filters and drill down.
  • Handle complex data sets.

For more details, this post shares how The University of Oklahoma is using analytics for data-informed recruiting.

Example 2: Using visual analytics to assess performance on strategic metrics

Are you able to assess the performance of your strategic metrics? The University of Louisville needed to support their 21st Century University Initiative by providing users with visually interactive reports on 45 key metrics with baseline, mid-point (2014) and end (2020) goals.

Using SAS, they were able to develop standard templates that can be directly populated with unit- or program-specific data. This allowed for enhanced data reporting and visualization capabilities that support strategic university planning. Data visualizations are now deployed university-wide, and an automation plan is being developed to maintain current data within the reports. This post shares more details on how data visualization helps the University of Louisville achieve its 2020 strategic plan.

Example 3: Create a data-driven retention and graduation action dashboard to improve student success

Are you able to identify which factors most affect students’ success? That was the question Wayne State University needed to answer. As such, the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis joined forces with the Office of Student Success to create a data-driven retention and graduation action dashboard. Based upon a series of analytics, and using SAS Visual Analytics, the offices are now able to identify which factors most affect students’ success. Using the dashboard to track student progress solves the problems created by static reports and cumbersome spreadsheets -- and empowers the university community and Graduation Action Committee with actionable data. Check out their success story to learn more.

 Example 4: Accurate and efficient development and implementation of state and federal reporting

State reporting – all higher institution are under pressure to do these, but how can they do them in a timely and efficient manner? West Virginia University (WVU) recently evaluated all processes for their mandatory state and federal reports to ensure data quality was at an acceptable level.

What they discovered was a series of inefficient, inaccurate, and time-consuming processes. As such, WVU has undergone a complete upgrade in reporting capability for their state reporting. Their paper discusses the evaluation of their existing systems and the move to convert the reports to an updated methodology utilizing SAS.

Example 5: Benchmarking for a new era of leaders with self-service dashboards

Benchmarking performance in key areas against similar institutions can help an institution tell its story of institutional success -- which is critical in the recruitment of talented students and faculty. Showing your institution at the top of a chart of your peer institutions is an effective way to make a public statement about your success.

After realizing how frequently office staff pulled similar data from IPEDS, NSF, US News and other external sources, researchers at the University of Central Florida decided to implement an in-house benchmarking data warehouse. This data warehouse created a self-service stop for institutional leaders to conduct their own comparative analyses. Check out their success story to learn more.

Example 6: Using survival analysis to understand the trajectory of a tenure-stream path

The path of a tenure-stream faculty member’s promotion and tenure is often set out in faculty policy. These policies vary by institution, but can also vary by college and even department within the same institution. Even though policies are set, the path is not always set in stone. Carnegie Mellon University shared how they created a data set to understand the trajectory of a tenure-stream path.

Their paper addresses the challenges they faced along the way and how they were able to come up with an informative and repeatable process to look at the path and timing. They also discuss how they created cohorts and tenure-stream milestones, and how they ultimately used a survival plot to present the information in a clear and easy-to-understand manner.

Interested in learning more? Check out this compilation of best practices from education institutions: Ten Tips for Using Data Visualization and Analytics Effectively in Education.


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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