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Here’s How to Use Spreadsheets for Affordable, Data Driven Decision Making in Education

Education is one of the most important industries in our country. But does big data have a role in education? We say yes. Affordable data driven decision making in education is possible.

Higher education doesn’t operate with large, enterprise-level budgets. Resources are tight, and departments are often made up of just a few team members. Perhaps no department is more time-strapped or in demand than the IT department. 

With thousands of students needing tech help for their email inboxes, online registration, and class schedules, technology department members are spread thin. 

This isn’t even to mention the increasing pace of technology trends. Data-driven practices are growing at light speed. Everyone knows that data and insights are important, but to manipulate data to gather useful ideas, you need specific tools. 

Data analysis tools can be very expensive. Enterprise-level BI and data warehousing tools can be hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

What can educational institutions do when they have just as much data to analyze, but only a fraction of the budget for data tools? How can you ensure data driven decision making in education?

Here are our tips for becoming a data-driven educational institution on a budget. 

Do These 4 Things for Data Driven Decision Making in Education

1. Think more like a business.

It’s important to highlight that the education industry doesn’t always operate as a traditional business or enterprise. However, it can benefit from shifting toward that mindset.

Any school that aims to grow using data and data-driven principles needs to focus on business objectives and strategy.

Because schools have such a wealth of data, there’s a risk of overwhelm. Focusing on the right objectives helps to filter out the data that does not relate to the immediate objective. 

For example, a school’s strategic objective could be to increase enrollments for the next school year. So they would be primarily interested in increasing the lead to enrollment rate, which helps to narrow down the data sources. The data sources needed for that type of analysis might include lead information and enrollment data.

Furthermore, focusing in this way helps to conserve time and resources. Your IT teams and data engineers know which databases to focus on, and which information to leave out for the analysis.

2. Use existing tools like Excel or Google Sheets.

When embarking on data driven decision making in education with limited resources, it’s important to work smarter and get the most out of your existing tools. Most schools have easy access to Microsoft tools like Microsoft Excel. Or, perhaps you use Google Suite and tools like Google Sheets.

The good news is that tools like Kloudio allow data analysis to be done right in Excel or Sheets. Given that most departments have access to Excel or Sheets, using one as the hub for your data manipulation and analysis is a scalable solution that won’t require additional funds or licenses to purchase. Another real-world benefit to using Excel or Google Sheets is that final projects are always shareable as any system can open both spreadsheets.

Our 2021 Data-Driven Decision-Making Report shows that business users prefer spreadsheets over BI tools. Get the data here.

We encourage educational institutions to start with Excel or Google Sheets as their data foundation, powered by Kloudio

3. Audit your key data elements.

The next step on the path to becoming data-driven is to audit your data infrastructure (a.k.a. your data stack). The key pillars of data infrastructure include data sources, data analysis, data storage, and data output. During a data audit, review each of these pillars to determine what your institution has.

For example, you may collect data from forms on your website. Store that data in a database. Another example could be your enrolled student records which are stored in another database. 

Download our Modern Data Stack e-book to learn how to build a core data infrastructure to help you stop wrangling your data and start leveraging it for valuable insights and important decisions.

During this audit, note any tools or resources you use alongside the data. If there are any team members responsible for the data sources or data analysis, include that information in the audit document.

Once you review all the pillars of your data and create a list, you are ready to start combining information in useful, data-driven ways using Kloudio and Excel or Sheets. 

4. Build data-driven dashboards in Excel or Google Sheets.

Now that you know what your data landscape looks like, and you have the foundation of Excel or Sheets plus Kloudio, it’s time to start analyzing. In creating a dashboard, you will realize that both Excel and Sheets are more than boring spreadsheets.

For example, you can combine your various enrollment metrics from multiple databases to create an enrollment scorecard using Kloudio and Excel or Sheets. This way you can showcase enrollment metrics on a weekly basis across your recruiting department. A weekly enrollment dashboard can help team members stay aware of your pace toward overall enrollment goals. 

The Data Revolution is for Everyone

In terms of utilizing data for success, the education industry has no shortage of data to use. From student demographic data to individual class enrollment data, there is a huge volume of information that could be leveraged for insights. The main challenge for education IT departments and data engineers is affordable data driven decision making.

With the development of tools like Kloudio, the ability to analyze data is now possible across industries. Create a free Kloudio account today.

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