Initiative VI

Support and Expand the Use of Institutional Data in Decision-Making

Data has real, measurable value in multiple realms. The foundation of quality decision-making is rooted in the accuracy of the data. Accurate, timely data is critical to business of the university. All members of the CWRU community must have appropriate and timely access to the information needed to do their work in whichever role they perform.

Students require information to enable their learning, whether it is enrolling for courses, applying for financial assistance or interacting with their instructors, advisers and administrators across the university. Faculty rely on institutional information in applying for grants, managing their courses, advising students and building, manipulating and sharing data in support of their research. Staff use their access to information to fulfill their roles and serve the university community by utilizing fact-based decisions supported by real-time data. Data is the foundation of our decision-making, so we must also carefully manage data to ensure that we know where it is, can rely upon its accuracy and can obtain it when and where we need it. 

Data accessibility involves the ease with which users obtain information. Timely access to accurate data is essential to improving the quality and efficiency of university decision-making. It is less costly to maintain timely, accurate data in a managed repository and then share it, than it is to maintain duplicate data in multiple locations. The university holds a wealth of data, but it is stored in separate incompatible databases, in different formats and with different definitions. The speed of data collection, creation, transfer and assimilation is driven by the ability of the university to efficiently share these islands of data across the institution. Shared data will result in improved decisions since we will rely on fewer sources for more accurate and timely managed data for decision-making. Electronically shared data will result in increased efficiency when existing data entities can be used, without re-keying, to create new entities.

Action Item 20.1: Complete a comprehensive inventory of systems, applications and data sources across the university in order to develop processes to support the assessment and alignment of data stewardship practices and policies. These policies need to promote responsible, timely, accurate and well-documented data across the university. 

Action Item 20.2: Through standardization of data sharing practices and reporting across the university, empower timely, fact-based decision making for faculty, staff and students so they can access the data necessary to perform their duties. 

Action Item 20.3: Adopt and enforce common data access policies and guidelines for application developers to ensure that data in new and legacy applications are available, usable and interoperable in a shared environment.

Today, data analytics can describe everything from transactional reporting to how a student learns. Data analytics include information dashboards supported by real-time data streams such as student engagement, cash flow, utility usage, etc. These dashboards, reports and metrics provide insight into what is happening in a particular area of the university, such as student retention, and possibly predict what could happen in the future. The university needs to prioritize the areas of business where analytics will help the most with better decision-making.

Action Item 21.1: Collaboratively develop a plan for implementing data analytics including the provisioning of technology tools, hiring or training of skilled data science professionals and analytics training for end-users to support both day-to-day decision-making and institutional research for learning analytics, student retention and success and business operations. This plan will define areas where analytics are needed and will include the development and introduction of a maturity model for analytics, which includes descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive analytics.

Action Item 21.2: Provide education and training to promote a common vocabulary used within data analytics.

Action Item 21.3: Develop standard data models, data elements and other metadata that define this shared environment and build a repository system for storing this metadata to make it accessible.

Electronic documents are the lifeblood of a modern university. There are critical factors that drive how we manage our electronic files. Physical space, backup, archival, human interaction with files and categorization, copies stored in electronic folders versus two or three physical copies and the reduction in the use of paper are among these top drivers. The challenge is twofold – managing content and facilitating how people obtain that content. 

Action Item 22.1: In collaboration with administrative departments, implement document management and facilitate online workflow for enterprise systems. All new systems should strive, wherever possible, to eliminate manual/paper document handling and routing for auditable workflow and environmental sustainability. 

Action Item 22.2: Continuously improve the user experience in storing and retrieving information from the university’s electronic resources. Ensure information is in a logical location and easy to find and use for both internal and external uses. Provide a centrally managed web server and content management system in partnership with University Marketing and Communications to improve the user experiences on university websites. 

Action Item 22.3: Provide an array of electronic document storage options. While some documents should be maintained within the larger document management system, alternative solutions, such as online file systems and potential cloud storage, need to be available and supported. In addition to offering the array of storage solutions, training and education must be available for all potential solutions.