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Back To School BI: Minnesota Department of Education Creates User-Friendly Dashboards

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

With the back-to-school season upon us it seem only fitting to have an article on dashboards being used within the education sector. Even better, an article about moving numerous complex reports to a consolidated, concise, and easy-to-use dashboard, providing users a much better view and understanding of the data. Sue Hildreth, Computerworld, offered the article below.

The Minnesota Department of Education, like a lot of state education departments, is tasked with collecting, evaluating and making available volumes of data on every aspect of its 2,000 schools and 350 school districts. It tracks school attendance scores, dropout rates, performance by grade level, test results, achievement differences between student subgroups, student population growth trends, expenses and much more.

While the department maintains a central repository for much of its data, some data has inevitably wound up in individual silos, such as on school servers and employee desktops. Getting to that data -- and standardizing it -- was a major challenge.

Another problem, as Cathy Wagner, the department's business analytics and data manager, explains, was the complicated presentation of data in the Excel reports that employees used to generate when they worked with the data.

"We had data that was mechanical-looking, and people complained they couldn't do anything with it," she says.

At the same time, administrators wanted to combine data from the various school districts in order to better see trends over weeks, months or years.

So earlier this year, the IT department began consolidating data -- mostly in mainframe flat files or in Microsoft SQL Server systems -- into reports in an Oracle Universal content management repository, which will be located at a state data center. Developers used WebFocus Developer Studio and Flex Enable to develop multiple dashboards that end users -- administrators, teachers and parents -- can easily access to find the data they need. The dashboards also let users drill down into specific data types to get more information. Adobe Flex graphics help make the data more interactive.

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Source: Computerworld

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