by Alison Weiss, January 2014
Colleges and universities across the U.S. are grappling with higher tuition costs and changing enrollment trends. The average published tuition and fees for in‐state students at public four‐year institutions increased from $7,050 in 2009-2010 to $8,893 in 2013-14, according to research by the College Board. In addition, recent U.S. Department of Education data shows that total postsecondary enrollment in the United States actually decreased for the first time in 15 years between 2010 and 2011 by 0.2 percent, from 21.59 million to 21.54 million.
These times of unprecedented challenges in higher education mean that campus administrators at the University of California Berkeley (Cal) must work to be more strategic and accountable in the way they manage course enrollment and curriculum planning to better meet the needs of the university’s 36,142 students.
“In 2008 with the economic downturn, there was tremendous pressure on Cal and probably all universities because funding was cut dramatically. We had to find a more efficient way to do things,” says Greg Hamilton, lead campus data architect at Cal. “By adding enrollment data to our fully integrated campus-wide enterprise data warehouse, Cal Answers, we believed we could improve analysis on the data and gain better insight into what students want now and in the future.”
In early 2013, Cal administrators looked to Oracle Platinum Partner KPI Partners to help expand the Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE)-based data warehouse with the addition of Cal Answers Student Curriculum, a new component that would add enrollment data to the mix of student demographic information and financial data already accessible in the warehouse. With one source of centralized information, administers, advisors and staff members would have better visibility into enrollment patterns, student course history and course availability—ultimately improving overall curriculum planning and enrollment decisions, and better meeting students’ needs.
By adding enrollment data to our fully integrated campus-wide enterprise data warehouse, Cal Answers, we believed we could improve analysis on the data and gain better insight into what students want now and in the future.
KPI Partners, a California-based strategic consulting and systems implementation company, was an ideal choice for the project because the company specializes in Oracle Business Intelligence and creating custom data warehouses using Oracle technology. And the company’s offshore development talent gives customers, including Cal, significant benefits, reducing the time it takes to bring a project into production.
“Our Offshore Technology Center is really the backbone and strength of our organization in a project like this,” says Norman Dy, vice president of Business Development and Client Services at KPI. “It gives us the ability to be flexible and to provide agile development.”
According to Hamilton, during the prototyping phase to create dashboards and reports for the new Cal Answers Student Curriculum system, KPI consultants and Cal’s IT Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) group worked on critical items during the day. Then, they would have a telephone meeting with offshore personnel in the evening, and the offshore staff would work all night. As a result, first thing the next morning, the onsite team at Cal would have completed change requests they asked for the prior day. Working with offshore experts streamlined the process so that within the first month users already had live dashboards to evaluate.
Working collaboratively for just a few months, KPI consultants and Cal IT personnel were able to launch the initial two Cal Answers Student Curriculum dashboards. The first, Weekly Enrollment Manager, tracks classes offered, enrollment counts and limits, and which classes are filled during the registration period. Updated every week, users can monitor curriculum and make decisions about teacher support and how many classes to offer based on where there is growing demand.
“People can figure out which classes aren’t filling at the same rate that they did last year,” says Hamilton.
The second dashboard, Curriculum Long-Term Planning, provides analytics on course offerings, enrollment, average class size, and student credit hours, enabling users to look at overall trends to make better decisions for upcoming school semesters.
Users are pleased that the Cal Answers Student Curriculum dashboards are easy to navigate, and the underlying OBIEE technology means in just seconds the system, even with its multi-million record sets, can quickly generate the reports users need to see. Most importantly, advisors, campus administrators and staff are already using the real-time analytics from Cal Answers Student Curriculum to make adjustments to which classes should be added because of increased demand and which should be dropped because of lack of interest. Curriculum planning is much more strategic because there is a better match between the classes offered and what courses students need to meet degree requirements and graduation deadlines.
Now, the EDW team is working with KPI consultants on the next additions to Student Curriculum to be delivered in spring 2014. Instruction will offer insights into faculty workloads and space utilization. In fall 2014, DARS and Financials will provide detailed information on the cost of instruction and degree requirements.
Dy sees only good outcomes for the next phase of the project. “The technology is great, and users find the system easy to use and intuitive,” he says. “But all that stuff only comes around with the leadership, collaboration and openness shown by Greg and the other folks at UC Berkeley. They’re the main drivers for the success of what we’ve had so far.”
Alison Weiss is a frequent contributor to Profit.