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How Stetson University democratizes data-driven decision-making and debunks myths

As written on
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.

Empowering Employees

“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.”

Engaging Students and Alumni

For prospective, current, and former Stetson students, access to university information has improved dramatically. Federally required information such as enrollment trends, retention, and graduation data is more accessible than ever. Before Power BI, the university could make PDFs for people to download, but the data was static and complex. Students can now interact with and explore data online rather than being forced to download information.
Hines has even seen progress in Stetson’s alumni and stakeholder community. The university is in the early stages of developing a Power BI partnership with Stetson’s Alumni Gifting Program. Hines is currently working on a template to help them understand and leverage historical statistics about the program for the public. For every gifting program, they’ll be able to pull up data on the success of each campaign in progress and understand the intricacies of campaigning. The end goal is to help stakeholders and alumni see data points that have been previously difficult for them to see, such as the best time for email and calling campaigns or which days of the year are the biggest giving days.
Power BI has not only helped debunk myths and change the conversation at Stetson, it has also helped acknowledge students who often go unnoticed.
Click on the dashboard above to view an interactive retention report.
“Sometimes students outperform their scholarships, which were based on high school performance,” Hines says. “How do we track this and show student appreciation and reward them? Power BI helps us track these students and provide better incentives to show appreciation for their hard work.”
Microsoft is proud to partner with Resche Hines and Stetson University as they continue to engage students and empower faculty and administrators to achieve more.


Georgia State University tackles malware with Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection

By Ren Flot, chief information security officer and director of cyber security at Georgia State University as written on
As the chief information security officer at Georgia State University, my job is focused on balancing the needs of an academic community—where faculty and students value broad access and flexibility in online research—with the security requirements of a large enterprise. Advancing both these requirements calls for a proactive approach to combating malware. In a threat landscape that is constantly changing, I look for products that can deliver effective protection, while helping us make efficient use of our cyber security team’s time and resources. To meet these needs, we acquired Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection to increase email security for our more than 55,000 students and more than 6,000 faculty and staff.
The cyber security team at Georgia State University had noticed a steady uptick in malware attacks, particularly phishing, and it felt like we were fighting fires every day. The security of our university community in digital spaces is an important priority, so we aimed to get ahead of the problem. It was clear that an additional layer of security was needed. To address the issue, we selected Advanced Threat Protection, because detection and protection against malware attacks would be handled within a Microsoft cloud environment, freeing up time for us to focus on other security and IT tasks.
After deploying the solution to a pilot group, we saw a significant reduction in the number of malicious emails reaching our users, and by the time we completed our implementation, we had reduced the number of emails that got through with malicious content by more than 2,000 messages over a five-month period. Today, Advanced Threat Protection has become an important part of the toolset that is helping us take a proactive stance against malware. This hosted email filtering solution also interoperates very smoothly with our Office 365 email system, providing a highly secure productivity platform.
And implementation was accomplished quickly and easily, with support from Microsoft FastTrack. Our team has also found the management controls and user-based settings available within the solution to be very configurable, an advantage given the range of user groups—faculty, staff and students—that we have to consider in the higher education environment. The Safe Links feature has been particularly useful in our environment, because students share a lot of links while working on projects, and it has performed well at helping prevent inadvertent access to malware through links and attachments. The solution is seamless from a user experience perspective, and the product is unobtrusive, working efficiently in the background.
Georgia State University’s security profile has been significantly enhanced as it relates to email through use of Advanced Threat Protection. Today, we have a solution that is nearly invisible, while providing staff and students a safer environment in which to work and study.


Office 365 University


Taking higher ed even higher with Office 365 University

By Devin Pastoor as written on
My life is a whirlwind of classes, assignments, group projects, and lab work. Like most college and university students, I’ll take all the help I can get to keep organized, stay productive, and ultimately remain ahead of the learning curve.
Lucky for me, and other higher-education students striving to make sense of it all, Microsoft just released Office 365 University for college and university students.
As an early adopter of Office 365, I’ve been up and running for few months. In that short time I’ve gotten to know and love many of the new capabilities-all of which I won’t be able to do without whether I’m at school, home or work. Here are just a few:
  • Note Taking: I use OneNote as my ‘digital brain.’ Whether it’s classwork, lab work, to-do lists, or random thoughts, OneNote keeps everything in order and at my fingertips. I really love the openness and extensibility that OneNote provides. In a snap, I can create outlines, add PowerPoint slides or handouts my professors give me, and on my tablet, make full use of inking capabilities in multiple colors. Beyond keeping me organized, the search functionality built in to OneNote is invaluable to me.The fact that I can even search written text–my own handwriting!–makes it easier than ever for me to find keywords when gathering research, studying, or looking for information from a specific lecture
  • Data Entry: While doing lab work, Flash Fill in Excel has already saved me many hours of manual data entry. Like a data assistant that finishes your work for you, Flash Fill detects what you want to do and enters the rest of your data in one fell swoop, following patterns in your data.
  • Presentations: Using the improved presenter view in PowerPoint, I always appear more polished than I really am (sure hope my professors aren’t reading this). Hidden from my audience, I can see all the important points I need to land in the notes section, and I no longer worry about which slide is next or need to look up at the clock on the wall to see how much more time I have left.
  • Communications and Calendaring: Balancing school, work, multiple email accounts and my schedule is a breeze with the new Outlook. The ability to add people to a meeting and have Outlook propose times where everyone’s calendar is free has made scheduling large meetings or even casual get-togethers hassle free.
  • The Cloud: With SkyDrive, my current documents are always accessible online, wherever I am. Since I frequently switch between my tablet and laptop, keeping everything updated across both is essential. I’m also involved in a lot of group projects, so being able to create and share folders of content, know that everyone has the most up-to-date version of everything, and that everything is always backed up takes a lot of stress out of collaborating.
In addition to all the things I love about using Office 365 for school, I can’t end without letting you know about all the extras that come with an Office 365 University subscription, including:
  • More storage: Additional 20 GB of Premium SkyDrive storage.
  • Skype: 60 Skype world minutes per month.
  • New upgrades: Get future updates and enhancements.
  • Two installations: Install Office 365 University on up to two computers (PC or Mac) for one user.
  • Office on Demand: Use Office even when you are away from your PC by streaming full-featured Office to an internet-connected Windows-based PC.

For more information on technology solutions for education, click here

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