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How to Build a Data-Informed Campus: A Day in the Life of an Institutional Research Director

Reading time: 5 minutes
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By Tom Haushalter

Every department and program at every higher-ed institution has data. But it’s not a given that everyone in each department knows how to utilize that data, to gain insights that could positively impact strategy around recruitment, enrollment, and student success. That’s where the institutional researcher comes in.

For some universities, the journey to becoming a data-informed campus begins with one person—a single individual with the will and sense of urgency (and the right tools) to transform a culture.

Rapid Insight super-user, Matt Rehbein, Director of Institutional Research at Lipscomb University, is one such individual.

We’ve spilled quite a bit of ink already about Rehbein’s breakthrough application of Rapid Insight at Lipscomb. But even Rehbein might admit that the work of bringing an entire campus into alignment on its data use is never done—and it’s a challenge he happily rises up to.

In recent months, on top of ongoing efforts to maximize student outcomes, Lipscomb University has been in the process of migrating from one ERP system (Banner by Ellucian) to another (CampusNexus by Campus Management), with all the training and implementation challenges that come with it.

For Rehbein, any given day is an exercise in the many ways Rapid Insight’s tools provide accurate and actionable insights from data—and how Bridge in particular empowers more people (not just that single individual) to generate and share data reports.

Recently, Rehbein offered us a glimpse into how he spent one particular day on campus, illustrating how data analytics has shaped his work as an institutional researcher —and shaped how data access and usage informs decision-making at Lipscomb:

8:30 – 9:00 AM:
Meeting with the Dean of the Engineering college

He wanted to review and confirm the accuracy of graduation rate statistics he’d derived from Bridge. I did so and then showed him a second way to view the data.

We discussed an analytics project (comparing student retention and graduation rates by gateway course type) that would require additional querying from Construct to create a custom dataset for this research question.

He also mentioned how Bridge allowed them to calculate that 80% of their graduates complete on time, a higher proportion than the national average for engineering schools, giving them a strong selling point in recruiting.

9:00 – 9:30 AM:
Creating datasets for faculty development planning

Put the finishing touches on a Construct job that creates a simple demographic of Fall 2019 faculty. Created a Bridge dataset and shared with Center for Teaching and Learning (helping them to plan professional development for faculty this fall) and Provost Office colleagues.

Previously, users had to access two different reports in another system (one for full-time and one for adjuncts) to see the sum total of teaching faculty. The Bridge dataset blends the two populations seamlessly.

After sharing the dataset, received a note from a colleague stating how helpful it was to have this information.

10:00 – 11:00 AM:
Meeting with Lipscomb Online Registrar

This person handles registrations for our new Lipscomb Online platform. The Lipscomb Online unit is completely in our new ERP (CampusNexus) while the rest of the campus is in Banner.

Coached her in Construct, helping her learn how to build a report that lists students with incomplete grades. This job template can be easily turned into multiple other jobs that report on final grades data in their college.

Coached her in Bridge on how to create an incomplete grades dataset, create a dashboard, and share with users. Created two new Bridge accounts for Lipscomb Online colleagues.

11:15 – 11:45 AM:
Validating dataset accuracy for more confident reporting

Meeting with dean of our College of Entertainment & the Arts and his executive assistant for onboarding to Bridge. The meeting was actually scheduled to be just with her, but the dean stepped in and looked over our shoulder while I explained how to navigate a dataset, how to create and share a dashboard. He is already a Bridge user but wants to become more proficient. As an institutional researcher, data literacy is a priority for me.

We discussed the importance of having a clean data source in order to assure internal and external constituents that the Bridge data are accurate. He wants to ensure that when the university president asks for his numbers, he can have full confidence in what he provides.

Since the Provost Office is now using Bridge as its source for program headcount in formal reviews, he is finally making headway in convincing them just how much this college is growing, because everyone is drawing from the same data source. We concluded by agreeing to have a college-wide Bridge training and brainstorm session during the fall term.

1:30 – 3:00 PM:
Blending and validating data for the new CRM

Meeting with Project Team and Subject Matter Experts for CampusNexus Migration Project. Discussed go/no-go criteria for planned go-live date.. Created flow chart mapping the student journey by student type (FTF, transfer, graduate, etc.).

Used Bridge dashboards to reference high-level headcount metrics that factored into the student journey models, allowing for calculation of how many extra hours would accrue to back office workloads if specific system configurations and workflows were not in place to fit the reality of how we do business.

In surveying the go/no-go criteria and the various data needs to address each category, I rested assured in the confidence that Construct enabled us to compare massive amounts of data from Banner and CampusNexus to enhance our data validation.

3:30 – 4:00 PM:
Maintaining consistent data reporting

Meeting with Associate Registrar, University Registrar’s Office. Coached her in Construct, helping her build a report that lists transfer credits posted in Banner for summer and coming fall terms. Showed her how to dump data from a table in CampusNexus that would help her determine which terms the Veterans Services office would need to report to the state as comprising our academic year.

We agreed to get back on a weekly meeting schedule to accelerate her build-out of a pending graduates report in CampusNexus and other in-house data needs. Discussed our new Clearinghouse reporting schedule (as a result of how we created our term structure for our Lipscomb Online, we have an academic calendar that presents unique challenges to configure reporting for external constituents).

I assured her that through Construct we could maintain consistent reporting during our system migration and the reality of having student data in two different systems at the moment.

The End of Another Day for an Institutional Researcher…

In just the span of a day, Rehbein demonstrates how much more efficiently Lipscomb leverages its data for decision-making, with the Rapid Insight platform’s tools at everyone’s fingertips. He shows that building a data-informed campus may start with one person, but the “democratization of data”—putting data into the hands of many—is not only possible; it just might be essential.

Learn more about Rapid Insight’s suite of analytics tools, and ask us about a customized walkthrough of the platform.

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