About This Guest Post

At the forthcoming IWMW 2017 event Marieke Guy is co-facilitating a workshop session on building a data dashboard. In this guest post Marieke provides the background to the workshop.

The Sixty Minute (Data Dashboard) Makeover!

The Higher Education sector is very much awash with data: from performance indicators and metrics, league tables to survey responses. However despite this proliferation of stats and facts we don’t always make best use of what we have. Not only do we often fail to fully understand what is happening in an institution by misinterpreting the data available, we also miss a trick and don’t effectively use data to support decision making for the future. As the 2016 Higher Education Commission report “From Bricks to Clicks” put it:

The HE sector has always been a data-rich sector, and universities generate and use enormous volumes of data each day. However, the sector has not yet capitalised on the enormous opportunities presented by the data revolution, and is lagging behind other sectors in this area.”

At IWMW 2017 my colleague Jon Rathmill and myself (Marieke Guy) will facilitate a practical, interactive workshop taking attendees through the steps in creating a data dashboard. Our session “Sixty Minute (Data Dashboard) Makeover — in 1 hour 30 minutes!” will have us progressing through dashboard planning and delivery. We will start by thinking about research questions and user stories and move on to collecting data sources and designing a functioning dashboard with data visualisations galore! All in one hour and thirty minutes!

Jon and I met earlier this year when we found ourselves to be part of the same team (Team Tom) in a round of the BI Analytics labs.

Analytics Labs is a joint project run by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and Jisc. Cross institutional teams from university strategic planning departments work together to analyse HESA and other data sources for new business insights. The project teams agree on user generated business questions that are pertinent for the HE sector and then answer them by designing data dashboards.  Teams spend one day a week for three months developing the boards.

As part of Team Tom we focused on research and developed three user stories around: 1) the postgraduate research student experience; 2) Brexit and international exposure; and 3) Preparation for REF. The data sets we used included HESA student and staff, PRES, Eurostats, CORDIS and RCUK. Other teams have looked at areas including library resources, employability, finance, FE, staff and TEF. It was a invaluable experience that allowed us to work in an agile way using great data manipulation (Altryx) and visualisation (Tableau) tools.

You may be thinking “What’s this got to do with me? I work with websites!” However BI analytics labs is not just relevant for those working on the data frontline — it continues to find new audiences. Over the summer I will be working with Jisc, HESA and a team of quality practitioners to help them develop dashboards that can be used to inform those working in quality assurance. Understanding and utilising the data of relevance to your team is an incredibly useful skill to have in our increasingly data-focused world.

So come along to our session and start thinking data and start building dashboards!

About The Author

Marieke Guy is a data analyst at the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). She spends her days working with qualitative and quantitative data and information about HE. Prior to joining QAA she worked for Open Knowledge (supporting the use of open data in education, culture, government etc.) and at UKOLN, a centre of expertise in digital information management based at the University of Bath. While at UKOLN she spent time supporting research data management for the Digital Curation Centre and on an assortment of research projects looking at how you can “organise stuff on the web”. Marieke was co-chair of IWMW for seven years and is often nostalgic for those days.

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