Education is one of the most important industries in our country. Those who work in the field are helping to shape the minds of future employees.
Higher-ed doesn’t operate with large, enterprise-level budgets. Resources are tight, with departments 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.
Not to mention, the increasing pace of technology trends. Becoming data-driven, in particular, is growing at light speed. Everyone knows that data and insights are important. But to manipulate data to gather useful ideas, specific tools are required.
Data analysis tools can be very expensive. Enterprise-level BI and data warehousing tools can be hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
What do educational institutions do when they have just as much data to analyze, but a fraction of the budget for data tools?
Here are our tips for becoming a data-driven educational institution on a budget.
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, even though the education industry doesn’t inherently program to think like a business, it would 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 resources. Your IT teams and data engineers know which databases to focus on, and which information to leave out for the analysis.
Use Existing Tools Like Excel
When embarking on data analysis efforts 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 including Microsoft Excel.
The good news is that new Microsoft Excel extensions like Kloudio allow data analysis to be done right from Excel. Given that most departments have access to Excel, using it 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 is that final projects are always shareable because any system can open Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft documents.
We encourage educational institutions to start with Excel as their data foundation, powered by Kloudio.
Audit Your Key Data Elements
The next step on the path to becoming data-driven is to audit your data infrastructure. 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.
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.
Data-Driven Dashboards in Excel
Now that you know what your data landscape looks like, and you have the foundation of Excel and Kloudio, it’s time to start analyzing. In creating a dashboard, you will realize that Excel is 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. 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 resources and budget. With the development of tools like Kloudio, the ability to analyze data is now possible across industries.