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Fighting the Database & Winning: Cohort Data & Disaggregation Best Practices

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  1. Fighting the Database & Winning: Cohort Data & Disaggregation Best Practices Christopher M. Johnson, PhD, Renton Technical College Michelle Andreas, EdD, Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges

  2. Overview • Discuss and survey issues with getting relevant data to analyze AtD strategies • Similarities and differences between US States • Show you our solution • Take it for a test drive • How we got there and why! • Share best practices Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  3. Quick Questions • How many of you are institutional researchers? • How many of you are satisfied with your current data system? • How many of you spend enough quality time doing useful analysis? • Instead, how many of you spend more time fighting the database than getting useful data out of it? Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  4. Issues with Your Data • Please mix with others from other states and other colleges as much as possible • With your neighbors, please brainstorm: • Personnel Issues • Technical Issues • Design Issues • Communication Issues Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  5. Detailed Issues – The Survey • Please fill out the detailed survey sheet • please add to web survey now or later • Feel free to talk about it with your neighbors, but please fill out according to your college and state specifically • Questions for everyone • Are there any strong disagreements from the survey – not an issue in your state or with your college? • Are there any agreements from the survey – big issues in your state or with your college? Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  6. The Positives in Washington • All 34 colleges use the same system • A lot of people know a lot of things • A puzzle, but someone often has a piece or two • The State Board puts out an easy-to-use database that answers a lot of questions • Which is good if both the college and the State have the same question • Not as good if your question is different • Unfortunately, tracking cohorts (in general) was not a State question • The Washington Student Achievement Model • Milestones between start and finish – Success tracking • Integrated into the State databases Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  7. So what did we do at Renton Tech? • The “Madrona” System • Features • Pre-designed Excel Pivot Tables and Charts • Deployed on a Campus Network • Currently, 25% of the campus is connected (includes all full time faculty, exec cabinet, admin) • Tech lite Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  8. Why Excel Pivot Tables? • Easy to set up – easy to filter • Easy to modify and adapt • Allow easy drill down or disaggregation • Everyone has Excel, so you don’t need to run around and install software • Most people use Excel • Pivot tables are intuitive • Try it out for yourself! • http://www.rtc.edu/AboutUs/ResearchDevelopment/Reports/ • Interactive Cohort Retention Report (in MS Excel 2007) – or ask Chris to copy the file to your computer) Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  9. Solving the Problem – Communication & Resources • Integrity Task Force – our strategy • Find out who knows what on and off campus • Look at every resource available • Data dictionary, any available diagrams • Map it out yourself • Establish good relationships with IT personnel on & off campus Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  10. Alignment with State Resources Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  11. Solving the Problem – Systematic • Extraction, Query, Report Phases • Develop Extraction & Report Phases First • Develop Summary Fields and Preserve Detail Fields (for drill down) • Use lookup tables to compensate for quirky data design (or lack of any design) • Get the data out to as many as possible as fast as possible (file server & network access) Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  12. Put out the reports • Run reports past the Data Team for feedback • Get the reports out - fast. Get feedback from campus. Take two Alka Seltzer and grow a thick skin • Hit back on the pot shots – If they say it’s wrong, make them prove it! • Establish an open door policy for anyone to challenge (with source documents) • Clean up the mistakes – design & run integrity tests • Use legacy system for real time reporting to give you time to develop • Get everything else out on the data warehouse Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  13. Provide Training & Support • Open door and quick response to faculty and staff • Negotiate important research questions from “fishing trips” • Refresh and Review • Once a quarter department meetings • Faculty data groups in addition to Data Team • Creates a feedback loop Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  14. Don’t do this alone! • Partner with other colleges in your state! • Partner with your college system’s governing body! • Give away your data system to your partners (Code sharing & joint development) • Don’t fall in love with your system, your technology, and/or your methods! • Someone else does some things better • You do some things better than someone else • Don’t design a big system with the goal to flip the switch when it’s done! (e.g., dashboards, SharePoint) • Instead, do Rapid Prototyping – Madrona is rapid prototyping, nothing more Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  15. Remember • No one cares one iota about your queries or your data warehouse or your cool technology • They only care about the reports and information • They can’t wait two or more years till your system is done! • By getting everyone involved ASAP, it’s everyone’s system and not your baby! Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  16. The Future & the Buzz in Washington • 34 colleges in Washington State have the same challenge (same legacy system) • Partnerships • Washington State Board of Community & Technical Colleges • 5 Colleges: Data Mart Project • Washington Association of Research Practitioners (WARP) • Changing from a code dictation, top down entity to a knowledge sharing body • Collaboration site being set up – knowledge sharing Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas

  17. Thank you! • Any questions? • Detailed Technical Questions at Institutional Research and Effectiveness Focus Area Networking Session – 3:15 pm today Chris Johnson & Michelle Andreas