University Business April 2018 - 40
CONNECTNG DATA SILOS
recruitment data formerly captured on
The new system allows the college to
offer responsive customer service. Any
authorized staff member can jump in and
get caught up with a student case if there
is a question, says Boro. "Tracking current
student activities and engagement was formerly closely held by each program."
Fox also uses Watson, IBM's artificial
intelligence engine, to reach the appropriate prospective student populations
and to gauge responses. Those responses
are fed back into Salesforce and into collaboration tools such as Workplace by
Facebook for later data analysis.
"We embarked on a crawl-walk-run
strategy with our end users, doing showand-tell demonstrations and identifying
key staff to be our grassroots evangelists,"
Boro says of the Fox School's CRM implementation. "The graduate programs
staff would agree that our college has access to better and more useful admissions
information than ever before." Those
staffers have begun making suggestions
about new information to track.
Boro continues to recommend how
to collect data to explore insights across
various campus functions. "Over the last
four years, the amount of data generated in our operations has increased by
an order of magnitude, bringing with
it many benefits and some unexpected
ramifications," he says. For example, the
team can now track the effect that events,
emails and other outreach has on interest, applications and yield.
On the challenges side, having so
much information flowing in required
his team to learn new skills in query and
At Indiana University Southeast, leaders of various departments rarely meet
in person, which perpetuates data silos,
says Ronald Severtis Jr., director of the
office of institutional effectiveness. That's
why the chancellor's office convened a
Quiz: Are data silos a problem on your campus?
1. Do employees need special permission to access enrollment
information or other campus data from the department
where it originates? ...................................................................... YES
2. Do departmental leaders frequently make decisions
without full access to historical data? ......................................
3. Do faculty have difficulty accessing data that could show
behaviors or background information that may influence
student performance? .................................................................
4. Is it common for various departments or groups within the
institution to play the "blame game" when new reports
show unfavorable or unexpected data? ..................................
5. Does each major business unit on campus
have its own unique database system? ....................................
REFLECTION: If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, your
campus likely has a data silo problem. It may be time for leaders to rethink how
data is stored and used. "If there is no political will from administrators, the
data silos mindset is unbreakable," says Harry Djunaidi of the Association of
American Education Analytics. "The change to campus culture needs to occur
first, and if this happens, data silos will automatically go away."
40 | April 2018
monthly Academic Council meeting to
discuss data with the academic affairs director, and all deans and vice chancellors.
Severtis supplies the group with one
data report at a time, such as recent
alumni survey data or retention trends.
"That way, we do not overwhelm the
attendees with globs of data," he says.
Focusing on smaller pieces of digestible
data lets the group zero in on the methodology of collection or the meaning of
certain survey questions.
While the Academic Council has met
only a few times so far, "the deans have had
strong questions about the data presented,"
Severtis says. They're learning more about
the types of data available and how it can
influence decisions across campus.
One lesson is that institutional research is different than the scholarly
research deans regularly work with.
Severtis works to show them that rather
than worrying about statistical representation and response rates, they simply need
to pay attention to the insight their students are providing via the data.
Democratize the data
At Coppin State University in Baltimore,
silos prevented staff members from making informed decisions that could support
student success. The university turned to
Blackboard Analytics to "democratize" its
data, and now a central dashboard makes
all public information available to all employees. (Access to more detailed information is governed by FERPA and HIPPAA
After implementation, officials saw an
immediate increase in faculty outreach to
students, says President Maria Thompson.
"Faculty members no longer had to wait
for a third party to generate a report on
the students," she says. Despite several
years of decline, the fall 2016 freshman
class size was 50 percent larger than the
year prior. In addition, the graduation rate
has increased by 20 percent.
Before the data democratization project, Thompson shared analytics dashboards to lead the university cabinet and
share governance discussions. Today, she
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