How Stetson University democratizes data-driven decision-making and debunks myths
As written on enterprise.microsoft.com
Making sense of the massive amounts of data universities gather can be tricky, but it can also be helpful when it comes to definitively answering the most pressing questions facing educators and administrators today. What makes students stay at your university or apply to transfer? What leads to academic successes or struggles, and what are the early warning signs? How can you optimize your curriculum?
This is a real story of digital transformation.
Crunching the Numbers
For Dr. Resche Hines, finding answers to these questions took time—a lot of it. As the Assistant Vice President of Institutional Research and Effectiveness at Stetson University—a university located in DeLand, Florida, a cool 20 miles from Daytona Beach and 30 miles from downtown Orlando—Hines regularly interacts with data and reports from across the entire university. This could range from research to better understand the university’s 4,300 students or crunching the numbers for a new construction project.
Hines recognized the need to find a more scalable, user-friendly solution that could empower his university’s faculty and staff to conduct their own data-driven investigations and engage students and alumni with the most up-to-date information. For Hines, that meant implementing an interactive data visualization tool that helped him draw smarter insights from his institution’s data. That tool was Microsoft Power BI.
Now Stetson’s community is more engaged and more frequently turns to data instead of inherited wisdom and intuition to answer questions. Students and alumni feel more knowledgeable and connected to their campus with readily-digestible, interactive information. Faculty feel supported in their never-ending quest for better curricula and offerings for their students. And perhaps most importantly, Stetson University has enhanced its ability to conduct complex research, have more productive conversations, and debunk long-held institutional myths.
“There’s so much data out there that it becomes overwhelming for people to consume. Though you have data on every element you want about your life, there’s no way to easily use it,” explains Hines. “You can get it, but what are you going to do with it? Power BI has allowed us to transition that data to make it usable for the end user, to leverage it, and finally start looking at the data in a comprehensive way.”
Big data is often complex, which makes it difficult for researchers, faculty, staff, and administrators to understand. To encourage user adoption and explain to the Stetson community that Power BI would help alleviate challenges associated with data engagement, Hines and his team went to every school and department chair and personally demonstrated how the tool could be leveraged. Through this personal interaction with his community, Hines was able to directly empower the Stetson faculty and staff.
The easy-to-use platform even transformed critics into advocates. Today, faculty and staff at Stetson are using data to have better structured, more informed conversations about transforming curricula and classroom supplies. “We had a faculty member who was able to use Power BI to ask the Dean of their school for additional resources,” says Hines. “That’s when I knew we were on to something special.”
Click on the dashboard above to view an interactive enrollment report from Stetson University using Power BI.
Power BI has helped Hines debunk many long-held and potentially damaging institutional myths.
“There were some areas of the institution that I thought were pain points for us in terms of retaining students, but we’re actually doing very well in retaining students,” Hines explains. “I thought most of the data would tell us that STEM areas are pain points for any institution in retaining students. Our STEM areas here are out-retaining our general population, which was an amazing discovery. To see that through Power BI was definitely a myth buster for me and for the institution. It helps to change the conversation.”