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Rapid Insight: Higher Education case study

Increasing Analytic Agility with Construct – MIT Sloan School


A need for flexibility

MIT Sloan Educational Services is responsible for course scheduling, student registration, tracking degree requirement completion, surveys, and course and student enrollment reporting. Much of this reporting falls directly on the shoulders of Scott Alessandro, Associate Director of Educational Services. Although MIT Sloan has implemented its own data warehouse, the canned reports that the warehouse was able to provide fell short of the robust reporting functionality that Scott needed. He also required a way to pull together information from multiple databases to get a big picture view of his students and courses.

The inaugural Construct project

Scott can trace his use of Rapid Insight Construct back to one specific inaugural project on faculty data, which had been assigned to him by the Dean’s office on behalf of one of the MIT Sloan faculty. The research question revolved around which characteristics make up the most successful team.. In order to aggregate the necessary data, Scott needed to integrate admissions demographics, standardized test scores, semester GPAs, team project grades, core courses grades, and student team information.  All of this data was located in different databases that were not connected. He used Construct to successfully link information from each of these databases, and to create the master data set that the faculty had requested.

Scott’s use of Construct and his understanding of the information contained in MIT Sloan’s data have evolved since that initial project. He found that as people discovered how quickly he could now extract answers from data, more and more requests for reports and analyses were coming in. In the past, analytic requests were often problematic because, as Scott describes, “data reporting requests can be ambiguous and the people asking the questions need to see a couple sets of results before they can fully refine their request.” It seemed that as soon as he carried out an analysis, the question changed and he had to start over. With Construct, Scott is no longer worried about iterative requests. It’s easy for him to trace and re-work his original logic to answer new questions as quickly as the questions can change.

Additional reporting projects

Reports that Scott has created in Construct include:

  • Course Prerequisite Checks
  • Degree Requirements
  • GPA Comparisons Between Selected Courses
  • Enrollment by Groups by Semester

Some of the reports that he’s developed were intended to answer one-time requests; others started out as ad hoc and are now used throughout the year. Automating these reports has saved Scott hours of work, freeing up time for him to explore and understand his data. Scott also uses Construct periodically to perform database maintenance and cleanup. Construct became Scott’s ‘go to’ tool for analyzing anything about Sloan students.

Report and file tracking

In addition to building reports for others, Scott uses Construct to manage his own workload – tracking the status of report requests and documenting the data definitions used in the process. If he wants to revisit his logic, he can open each functional element to see exactly which processes were being applied to the data and in what order. Construct also tracks where the data connections are which tells him where and how to find the files utilized within each job. He has both canned reports and customizable analyses in the same system with audit trails for both.

Data-driven decision making

Construct has allowed MIT Sloan to ask more questions of their data, and at higher levels of detail. Although their raw data is maintained separately by office, they can still bring all of the relevant information together without disturbing the existing ecosystem. By cross-checking data and doing cleanup between databases, they not only feel more confident in their data analysis, but also in the data itself.

About MIT Sloan School

The MIT Sloan School of Management, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of the world’s leading business schools — conducting cutting-edge research and providing management education to top students from more than 60 countries. The School is part of MIT’s rich intellectual tradition of education and research.

MIT Sloan began in 1914 as engineering administration curriculum in the MIT Department of Economics and Statistics. The scope and depth of this educational focus have grown steadily in response to advances in the theory and practice of management to today’s broad-based management school.

A program offering a master’s degree in management was established in 1925. The world’s first university-based executive education program — the MIT Sloan Fellows — was created in 1931 under the sponsorship of Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., an 1895 MIT graduate who was then chairman of General Motors. A MIT Sloan Foundation grant established the MIT School of Industrial Management in 1952 with a charge of educating the “ideal manager.”