Business Intelligence | Project Spotlight
Dalton State College Automates Fact Book with Online Dashboard
Dalton State College in Georgia has
replaced its manual Fact Book development process with an automated dashboard
that draws data directly from the student information system and delivers
information on demand through an online interface.
Dalton State is located in the city of Dalton in northwest Georgia. Serving
about 5,000 students and employing 215 faculty, the small college has only a
couple of people working in the Office of Institutional Research and Planning
(IRP). One of the office's primary responsibilities is to produce the college's
Fact Book, which details statistics and demographics about the college's
students and faculty.
In the past, the IRP office produced the book manually using Microsoft Word
and Excel. The process was time consuming and laborious, especially since the
small staff was simultaneously responsible for handling other information
requests and could not dedicate all of its time to producing the Fact Book. Though the
office would receive final enrollment numbers by October, it would typically take
until January or February to publish the official Fact Book for distribution in
paper copy and PDF.
As the number of information requests continued to grow, Henry Codjoe,
director of IRP at Dalton, decided to look for a more efficient method of
developing the Fact Book. "I know of some schools with one person whose only job
is to produce the Fact Book. We don't have that luxury here," said Codjoe. "We
wanted something that would be faster and more efficient."
Codjoe looked at the various IRP dashboard products available for the higher
education market. There were many to choose from, but most were far beyond the
college's limited budget. Knowing there was no way the college could spend
hundreds of thousands of dollars, Codjoe settled on
iDashboards, an online tool for
monitoring higher education key performance indicators (KPIs) such as
enrollment, accreditation, effectiveness, institutional research, financials and
departmental metrics. After attending an iDashboards workshop and discussing the
college's needs with the company, Codjoe decided it was the most affordable and
suitable option for the college.
"We chose iDashboards because it was relatively inexpensive and they have
good tech support," said Codjoe. "I saw the kind of data it can collect and the
graphics we could use, and I thought this would be good for the data that we
collect here and produce in our Fact Book."
The college opted for the iDashboard In Cloud software-as-a-service, which is
integrated with Dalton State's
information system (SIS). As part of the implementation, the company sent a
representative to Dalton State to work with Codjoe and his team for a week,
teaching them how to use the software and working with them to develop their
The dashboard pulls in data from two separate sources. It gets most of the
information about student enrollment and demographics from the Banner SIS, but
the IRP office needs to share other information that isn't stored in Banner.
Additional information about faculty, finances and so on is stored in an
extensive array of Excel spreadsheets that were originally developed for the
Fact Book, and those spreadsheets have now been repurposed to funnel information
into the dashboards. As new information becomes available, the IRP staff update
the spreadsheets and that information is automatically available through the
The iDashboards implementation at Dalton State is still a work in progress.
Codjoe wants to build more custom dashboards, including specialized ones for
each of the department heads. "They will be able to look up information like
enrollment numbers, admissions or student withdrawals whenever they want, so
they can use that information for decision-making," said Codjoe. He also hopes
to implement the iDashboards mobile app so faculty and administration can easily
look up information from anywhere.
How It's Used
Now faculty and staff at Dalton State can access key performance indicators
any time they want through the online interface. They just visit the Web site,
select the information they want to see and the dashboard displays it in
graphical format. And because the dashboard updates automatically from the
Banner SIS and IRP spreadsheets, decision-makers no longer have to wait months
for the Fact Book to be compiled and published.
The college's admissions office is using the data for internal analysis. For
example, if the Dalton State wants to admit 500 students in the fall, administrators can look
at historical data to determine how many applications they need to reach that
enrollment number. "iDashboards can you help you do that," said Codjoe. "So to
get that many students you know you need 1,200 applications, but if you're at 800
applications right now then you know you need to put in more effort."
Administrators at the college also use the dashboard to monitor enrollment
numbers so they can intervene if those numbers start to decline. Dalton State's
president keeps tabs on enrollment numbers on a weekly basis. If he sees a
significant drop in enrollment in a specific program, staff can follow up with
students and provide guidance as needed.
Codjoe is happy with the results of the implementation. "We still have a lot
of information to add in there, but it's a good process for us right now," he
said. "We were spending months and months working on the Fact Book. Now all we
do is prepare a very small Quick Facts, which takes about a week to do."
The dashboard has also cut down on the number of information requests coming
into the IRP office. "People used to call us for information such as enrollment
numbers, but now they just go to iDashboards and look it up without calling the
office, so that saves us time, too," said Codjoe.
"It's about efficiency and time management," added Codjoe. "Also, the
information is alive. It can be updated regularly without much sweat. It's
visual, and people like visual stuff. The bottom line is I want to save time and
be more efficient and I think the dashboard does that."
Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.