A Vision for Effective Data Use at NECC: Mission-Driven Data and Accuracy are Key

 In IE Blog

Here in the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, our aim is exactly as it might seem: to make sure that the institution is operating as effectively as possible. Central to our operations at Northern Essex Community College is data, and the way that it’s leveraged here is vital to the function of the college in too many ways to count. 

It thus goes without saying that our office is often heavily involved in data driven initiatives and that we have a stake in making sure that good data practices are followed. Here are a couple of practices that we want to highlight and encourage our readers to consider when using data: 

Data and Mission Alignment 

Given that data is one of the college’s most valuable assets, we want to ensure that its use is consistently aligned with NECC’s mission and core values. If we are provided with a request for data, we will always ask for the purpose of the request. Often times there are requests for data that might yield something interesting, but if the result is not actionable or doesn’t seem to have a link to our institution’s mission, then it might not be the best use of effort.  

More often than one might think, we get asked for the same data by multiple stakeholders at the college. In these instances, understanding the purpose of the data requests helps us connect individuals that are working towards similar goals across the college, and it allows us to create efficiencies by repurposing our data analysis when we can.  

Plan Ahead, Please!

In this same vein of thinking, we feel that it is important to be diligent when planning to collect data. Otherwise, it’s possible to collect data that isn’t suitable for its intended purpose and ultimately won’t affect any positive change. If you know you are going to need to collect data – even a year from now – it’s already a good time to start talking to IE so we can plan in advance on how to best meet your needs. 

Verified vs. Unverified Data 

When using data, everyone can agree that it’s preferable to use high quality data over low quality data when given the choice. For this reason, we feel that it’s important to be mindful of where data is being sourced. To this end, Institutional Effectiveness is often a good first place to stop if you need some data, as we can either source it or refer you to the appropriate office.  

We are strong proponents of the KACE ticketing system (the same one that IT uses) so that there’s always a record providing the context leading up to the delivery of the requested data. Submitting ad-hoc data requests through this system, rather than e-mail, allows us to keep track of everything all in one place and makes it easier to revisit the data down the line if necessary. 

Data Security and Best Practices

If you have data that you plan to share outside of your immediate area – whether it be for a grant, a press release, or some other external reporting – it is essential that you verify your data with our team. Keep in mind that you should never share individual or identifiable data about students or employees without approval and review by our office first.  

Best practices should always be followed – saving a static data file to your personal desktop for future use might not be the best idea when data elements, like student majors, can change at any time. Additionally, it’s ideal to ensure that any context necessary to understand the data (documentation, definitions, etc.) are paired with the data or easily accessible to any users that might need it. 

In summary, if we at NECC can consistently use high quality data with a clear, mission-related purpose in mind, we’ll be best positioned to serve our community and students. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness is always open to discuss how you and your areas can more effectively use data, so feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to set you down the right path! 

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