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Using data to improve student retention

Metropolitan University College in Copenhagen, Denmark, uses Business Intelligence to better understand and improve student retention

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | August 29, 2014 | Technology

In today’s competitive higher education landscape, it’s vital for universities to be able to analyse student data. This enables management and board members to take appropriate measures to improve key performance indicators like retention and completion, which are used to calculate university rankings.

When Metropolitan University College was looking for Business Intelligence software to gain better and faster insights into the information hidden in its student information system, it opted for the Pentaho Business Analytics platform. Pentaho enables Metropolitan University to extract, transform and load data on 10,000+ students held in different systems and makes it available for easy reporting and detailed analysis.

Replacing the manual system

Birgitte Merris-Vejlund, Consultant Student Services, Metropolitan University College explained: "Before Pentaho, we used an Excel-based system to extract data from the student information system. Not only was using this manual system very time-consuming, it was also prone to human error and unable to analyze all the data required to truly understand student performance".

Birgitte and her team needed a tool that would help them automate and speed up data preparation, whereas the management and board members sought the analysis and reporting tools that would allow them to track student performance more effectively. Such data driven decisions require reliable and trusted numbers. Consequently, quality and completeness of the data extracted from the student information system was an important consideration.

Detailed view of each data point

Birgitte’s team now use Pentaho´s Data Integration tool (PDI) to extract the data from the student information system, saving considerable time and minimizing errors. New drill-down reporting capabilities and the ability to apply different filters give the university management a much more detailed view on each data point. This helps them to understand why students are dropping out so they can take concrete measures to improve retention and completion. The system also provides an easy way to see an overview of the entire student population so that it can target its recruitment efforts appropriately. For example, it may decide it needs to attract more male students or younger students.

Birgitte Merris-Vejlund explains: "With Pentaho our university gains better insights into its student data much faster, helping it to understand student performance and identify critical factors to prevent students dropping out. Compared to the solution we used before, data preparation with Pentaho is not only much faster but the data is more exact and we can really drill-down into each detail."

Looking ahead

Currently two analysts prepare the reports for the university management and the board members twice a year. They also generate ad-hoc reports as needed throughout the year. Metropolitan University plans to roll out Pentaho’s user console, which will give board members and management access to self-service reporting. Finally the university is looking into the possibilities of blending the data from the student information system with other economic data.

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