Data-informed work and decision-making is central to creating successful and productive environments where resources are invested in initiatives with high return. Through daily interactions with students, the Division of Student Affairs has an enormous amount of data on student behavior, health, recreation, interests, daily life, and more. The challenge with this wealth of data, however, is that it currently exists in siloed systems.
“While informed decisions can be made with this information, the real power comes when we look at this data holistically,” said Rob Bailey, executive director of Student Affairs Information Technology (SAIT). “An integrated view of student engagement allows us to make more informed operational decisions, better tailor programs and services, and prepare for future student needs.”
Departments began utilizing business intelligence tools in 2019 to assist in conducting assessments of their individual programs and services. These tools have also been used to develop new initiatives, such as the University’s COVID-19 Dashboard created by SAIT and Project Bird Tracks, an inventory that collects data on individual student learning outcomes and provides students with personalized reports. Bird Tracks also offers a campus engagement dashboard that includes search and filter features, allowing students to make informed choices about the next steps in their involvement and to achieve greater progress in their learning.
Moving forward, the division has established a goal to take a more integrated view of the data across its 14 departments. Expected outcomes from this data integration and analysis include improved department operations and decision-making, enhanced support and guidance for students to be engaged in campus life, a more personalized and relevant student experience, and greater student success and retention.
The division is focused on a number of areas in order to advance this priority, including continued campus-wide collaboration on the University’s Student Success Dashboard and expansion of Project Bird Tracks. The division also plans to broaden its financial dashboard to provide even further insight on budget performance for departments and divisional leadership, ensuring financial resources are used responsibly.
The division also hopes to provide greater centralized support to department-based projects. Effective use of data will require investment in both technology platforms and staff to analyze the information and train employees on how to properly use the information in daily operations. It is critical that this information be used in a manner that supports divisional objectives while protecting the privacy of individuals’ information.
“Skilled integration and analysis of this data is key to understanding our students and enabling operations and programs that support student learning,” said Erin Thomas, director of advancement and assessment in the Division of Student Affairs.
“By fully leveraging data integration across the institution, our efforts will lead to a more comprehensive understanding of students’ engagement and the institution’s effectiveness in cultivating student success.”