September 8, 2017

One of the tenets of any organization committed to quality improvement is to use data, not intuition. Our Mission states that “as a learning organization, the College will preserve and enhance its commitment to continuous quality improvement. As a planning institution, the College will make decisions informed by data.”

I was reminded of the importance of data upon reading a book written by a high school classmate. He went on to the U.S. Naval Academy, and later went through the Top Gun program for elite naval aviators. His account of the training and preparation that he went through was fascinating. And his description of landing on an aircraft carrier for the first time was gripping.

One doesn’t land a multimillion dollar aircraft at high speed on a target that’s bobbing and weaving in the middle of the ocean without good data. And one doesn’t successfully do that hundreds of times without being able to respond appropriately to the conditions in real time.  The life of my friend, and those on the deck of the carrier, depended on accurate and timely data being clearly communicated.

My friend and classmate went on to Wall Street, and in his book he speculates what might have happened before the Great Recession if those in business and finance used data and training in the fashion of naval aviators. As you might guess, he thinks things would have gone much differently.

At East Central, we have made progress over time in the collection and use of pertinent data that reflects our performance as a college.

I am pleased that we have taken another significant step in this process as we unveil a data dashboard for East Central College.

The dashboard can be found here:

You will see measures related to enrollment, retention, completion, quality, developmental education, distance learning, and affordability.

The dashboard provides a clear look at current data compared to the prior year. It also includes a benchmark on many measures, how we’re trending from year to year, and how we compare to the benchmark.

Moreover, as you click on any one of the measures, you can take a deeper dive into the data and see detailed performance over time.

We may not be landing a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier, but we have the high calling of serving students, and this dashboard better enables us to assess headwinds, tailwinds, crosswinds, and more. With this tool we better see not only how we’re doing, but where we want to be in time.

The dashboard is dynamic. We will adjust measures and benchmarks over time, and we will be better prepared to tell our story to stakeholders as a result of this information.

I’m indebted to the Institutional Research office for bringing this to fruition. Bethany Lohden and Dana Riegel work hard to provide data across the institution. The dashboard was developed as the result of an AQIP action project, and in addition to Bethany and Dana, the others involved with its development were John Hardecke, Nanette Sayles, Bethany Herron, Marcia Bailey, and Linda Follis. This is good and meaningful work that will benefit the institution. Thank you!

Take a look at the dashboard. Become familiar with our performance and our benchmarks, and be thinking about how this can be used to not only have the data at hand, but to analyze it, act upon it, and continue to improve the work we do.

Note: The book to which I refer is Top Gun on Wall Street, by Jeffery Lay

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