Use education dashboards to publicize the value of analytics

Best practices from education institutions using data visualizations and analytics to create education dashboards

By Georgia Mariani, SAS Global Industry Marketing Manager for Education

So you’ve started off right, applied best practices so users are empowered to generate the insights they need, and officially launched your data analytics and visualization solution. Now what? How can you get people using it?

As you know, the world of education isn’t like Field of Dreams, where “if you build it, they will come.” You need to publicize your solution to target users the right way – and in the right places.

To build your user community, discuss education dashboards and how they can use them to gain valuable insights and answer complex questions that they could not before. Share success stories about how their colleagues in other departments, schools or classrooms have used reporting and analytics to improve performance and student outcomes. The goal is to educate and generate excitement about what’s possible so that their entire district or institution can become more data-informed.

As more people learn about the reporting, analytics and visualization capabilities of your institution, you’ll see increased demand. Tuesdi Helbig, Director of Institutional Research at Western Kentucky University, says that as users become experienced data consumers, their questions become more sophisticated. To find the answers, you’ll need to offer more data, more detailed reports and sophisticated analysis (such as advanced analytics), and enhanced visualization capabilities. Helbig uses SAS Visual Analytics for this. She explained in a recent webcast:

“People used to ask simple questions, such as how many students of a certain type are enrolled. But now they can get the simple questions answered, so they’re asking us more sophisticated questions like, ‘Are we driving majors off by requiring certain courses early in their major?’ or ‘Are there certain courses in our major that correlate with students changing their major or leaving the university?’

Using SAS Visual Analytics reveals patterns that you wouldn’t see if you were using business intelligence tools. SAS makes it faster and easier to dig into tons of data and get meaningful results. Without SAS Visual Analytics, you are really making decisions blindly. This solution helps you see what’s in your data and what’s happening within your institution. And at any time, users can delve deeper into the visualizations – and the data behind them – to know more.”

Because user needs will evolve over time – and numbers of users will likely increase – plan ahead when building out your reporting and analytics solution. Make sure you invest in software that can be upgraded, expanded and can scale as user needs evolve. And consider investing in a server (or servers) that can support a larger user group than your initial deployment.

Best Practices in Action

As you envision your next reporting and analytics solution, what do you see?

One way of envisioning how your education dashboard will change over time is to look at the publically available sites of institutions at varying levels of maturity. The following links take you to eight publically available sites of SAS customers:

  • University of Texas SeekUT
  • University of New Hampshire Institute for Health Policy – Accountable Care Project (click on Access Public Reports, then double click a report):
  • Public Schools of North Carolina NC School Report Cards (click on 2014-2015 School Report Cards) 
  • University of North CarolinaUNC InfoCenter 
  • North Carolina Community College System Analytics and Reporting
  • University of North Carolina UNC Educator Quality Dashboard
  • University of Texas System  UT System Measures Up
  • University of Hawaii System – Institutional Research and Analytics Office
  • Connecticut Dept. of EducationEdSight

I encourage you to explore each one for ideas – and see SAS Visual Analytics in action.

Georgia Mariani

Georgia Mariani is the SAS Global Product Marketing Manager for the Education Industry. Mariani works with customers to share best practices, successes and recommendations that enable education institutions to get the most productive insights from their data.