C-Level View | Feature

The Dashboard as a Campuswide Conversation on Completion

A Q&A with Jennifer Spielvogel

Back in 2008, Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) received a Campus Technology Innovator award for its development of a Business Intelligence system called One Institutional Intelligence that put data in the hands of decision makers — offering data analytics to staff across campus, many for the first time. Jennifer Spielvogel, whose title was then VP for Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, characterized her college's homegrown system, which was based on tools from Microsoft, as "pushing out" data to drive decision making. The strategy put Cuyahoga at the forefront of higher education BI applications at that time.

Since then, BI technology in general has moved ahead, allowing the college not only to reach a wider array of pertinent campus constituents, but also to dive more deeply into the data in a way that enables a kind of "campuswide conversation": A major dashboard implementation (based on Banner/Ellucian data warehousing — ODS and EDW — and the Argos reporting tool), available to departments campus wide, measures student success and completion — critical issues for community colleges today.

Spielvogel notes that the culture on campus is now one of "inquiry". Many departments have been renamed to reflect the importance of this cultural shift. In fact, Spielvogel herself proudly sports an updated job title: VP for Evidence and Inquiry. Regardless of departmental and project names, Cuyahoga is maintaining its innovative edge in BI. CT asked Spielvogel about the dashboard.

Mary Grush: When did Cuyahoga first implement its dashboard on campus? Was there a champion or a certain element in the campus culture that supported the dashboard?

Jennifer Spielvogel: We had a major change of leadership in Fall 2013, when three of our campuses had a president new to their post. This was a great opportunity for change, and the overall campus conversation shifted to include a greater emphasis on accountability and transparency. Of course, there had always been accountability, but with our new dashboard, along with our new top leadership, suddenly we had more inclusive, focused, campuswide conversations on accountability, based on highly relevant metrics of student success and completion.

Grush: What was the dashboard designed to do?

Spielvogel: The dashboard was designed so that all units at the college could think about how they were contributing to student success and completion. We expanded our analytics on student success to include not just those departments that are face-to-face with the students, but also those indirectly supporting anything that students encounter — facilities, the bookstore, fundraising, government relations… you name it. So, every unit in the college has now found a way to contribute to student success and completion. And, not only have these departments found their own way to contribute, with the dashboard they are measuring what they understand to be most important to their contribution.

Grush: Can you give me some examples?

Spielvogel: Of course. Take for example loan default rates. This is a metric that can show how the Finance department is contributing to student success. Another example is the bookstore, where we are reducing the cost of textbooks. And the Foundation office, for example, can point to evidence of how they are raising dollars for student scholarships — specifically dollars put toward completion scholarships. These are examples from departments we might consider as being on the non-academic side of the house.

Grush: What about the academic side?

Spielvogel: For the rest of the campus, specifically for Academic departments and Student Affairs — for which student success and completion are their major roles — we defined our "Big Ten" metrics. For example, there are metrics related to developmental English, developmental math; time to completion of college-level English and math; retention (Fall to Spring, Fall to Fall); graduation rates; and numbers of certificates and degrees awarded.

Grush: Are those metrics similar to or based on Achieving the Dream metrics?

Spielvogel: Cuyahoga's metrics do relate well to the five Achieving the Dream metrics, but ours also go beyond those metrics; we look deeper. Though we enjoy the ability to compare ourselves with other institutions nationally, we have our own lines of inquiry.

Grush: I notice that the dashboard was introduced on your campus during a similar timeframe to when the state of Ohio introduced performance-based funding, which was under discussion by 2012-2013 and became effective in 2014-2015. Is the dashboard in response to that?

Spielvogel: The introduction time frames are indeed similar, but we didn't set our metrics based on the funding formula; we set the metrics based on student success, something we already had deep insights into because we had been having this conversation on our campus long before the state of Ohio put that model into place.

Grush: How does the dashboard fit in with, or reflect current trends in community colleges in general?

Spielvogel: The conversation in community colleges moved, over time, from the "access" of more than ten years ago (that's what community colleges were about — letting everyone have an opportunity for higher education), to "success" about three or four years ago (and success was however anyone wanted to define that — so it could even be simply having success in a course or two). But since then, the conversation has distinctly moved from success to "completion" (completing your courses, completing your degree or certificate, transferring to a 4-year college, and so forth). So, community colleges like Cuyahoga have shifted their focus from access, to success, to completion. That's a major, important shift. And our campus conversations and the dashboard do reflect that.

Grush: Did you introduce the dashboard slowly on campus, or as a pilot?

Spielvogel: We didn't do a pilot. We didn't start with just one campus. And we didn't just look at general, college-wide metrics and let everyone else off the hook. What we did was an "all-in" kind of approach to a dashboard with an inclusive implementation college-wide. Given the utility of this process and all the fruitful conversations and awareness the dashboard has raised around student success and completion, I'm glad we did this.

[Editor's note: The deadline for nominations for Campus Technology's 2015 Innovator awards has been extended to March 2. You can still submit a nomination for innovative projects done at your campus — see the Call for Entries on the Campus Technology Web site and fill out the online submission form there.]

 

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