Tuesdi Helbig, PhD
Director, Institutional Research
Accelerating your information delivery
Western Kentucky University launches SAS® Business Analytics
Institutional research departments form the nucleus of data management, analysis and reporting for decision support at colleges and universities. Responsible for collecting, analyzing and reporting information about a school's students, faculty, programs and courses, Western Kentucky University's Institutional Research (IR) Office relies on SAS Business Analytics for data integration, analytical power and Web-based reporting capabilities – providing university decision makers with timely access to data and information that delivers deep insight into the affairs of the institution.
"The Office of Institutional Research has used Base SAS and SAS/STAT® for the past 16 years to build a strong data foundation, provide analyses and meet the needs of our users," says Tuesdi Helbig, PhD, Director of Institutional Research at Western Kentucky University. "Implementing the platform for SAS Business Analytics was the next logical step to help us provide our users with on-demand access to dynamic reports. The key benefit of the platform is time savings for both the IR office and its constituents."
SAS is our tool – it's our go-to solution for data and reporting.
Tuesdi Helbig, PhD
Persistent and consistent information delivery
Nowadays, data and information requests from the school's executive offices, college deans, department heads and various administration staff can be delivered in much shorter periods to support decision making – instead of waiting days or weeks, as was previously the case. In most instances, school officials can get to the reports they need immediately from the university's institutional research portal.
"A clear benefit of the system is its flexibility," says Gina Huff, Senior Applications Programmer Analyst. "It takes some of the daily pressure off us and, more importantly, provides better service to our clients."
Because information is needed for a variety of reasons, school officials request data to be formatted in different ways. Before, members of the IR team would have to modify Base SAS programs and run a new report to accommodate specific needs. Now they just log on to the solution’s interactive tables and design reports exactly the way they want to see them.
"This also illustrates the efficiency our new platform provides," says Chris James, Applications Programmer Analyst II. "Deans can access one report, and with just a few clicks they can answer many different questions – it's faster and more flexible. When you're answering multiple questions with one interactive report it's clearly much more efficient."
This efficiency, Huff adds, "is achieved, in part, through data integration – a powerful feature of SAS."
Seeing the big picture
The Institutional Research Office is one of the few departments on campus that incorporates different data sources, such as combining human resource data with course information. The IR team is also beginning to integrate outside data sources to develop a better understanding of what it takes for a student to be successful at the university.
Helbig says the system provides administrators and faculty members with more insight into the school's overall performance than what they have had access to in the past, including program enrollment performance.
University instructors currently perform fifth-week assessments for all freshmen to ensure students are attending and passing courses by the fifth week of the semester. Given the critical role evaluations play in getting students back on track and staying at the school, deans and department heads can now track faculty completion of the assessments.
"Prior to the BI implementation, administrators could not determine who had or had not participated until it was too late," explains Huff. "Additionally, advisers can immediately see which students are having difficulty in specific classes and provide outreach to those who are underperforming."
Just the facts
According to Helbig, the school's executives and college deans are very happy with the quality of analysis and reporting the system is producing, and are especially satisfied with having access to the most current information, allowing them to make more informed and timely decisions.
"Not only do they get answers to their questions but are also finding answers to questions they didn’t even know existed," explains Huff. "For example, one of our deans, who makes it a priority to explore the system’s data, says he made a discovery while reviewing student enrollments. He found a program with a particularly low number of part-time students. This prompted him to look at the program’s course offerings on the system and found that the majority of courses were scheduled between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. – times that are not particularly appealing to nontraditional students and part-time students with jobs. The system was able to highlight the need to expand course offerings and attract more nontraditional students."
As for the future, Helbig says her department will be taking advantage of the data mining capabilities of SAS Enterprise Miner™ to build predictive models that measure student success.
"It costs a lot more money to recruit students than it does to keep them," she says. "Soon we will be mining the prospect and recruiting data to find the best places to put our resources and recruit the students who are the best fit for WKU. SAS is our tool – it's our go-to solution for data and reporting."
The Institutional Research department needed a business analytics platform to collect, analyze and report information about students, faculty, programs and courses.
- Timely access to data and information, delivering insight into the institution's affairs.
- Instantaneous data and reports instead of waiting days or weeks for a request.
- Access to current data for planning purposes.
- Productivity gains in analysis and generating reports.
- Ability to identify enrollment trends and modify course offerings.
- Monitor student performance and implement retention programs.