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District Institutional Research Makes It Easier to Access Important Data and Information

By Jonathan Blundell

Over the last eight months, the District Office of Institutional Research has been quietly at working to make district data and information more accessible through its recently redesigned website.

With the new changes, district stakeholders can now access a number of interactive reports directly from the DOIR website at

“We’re working to move from a query-based culture to a more automated culture,” Dr. Richard Plott, director of District Office of Institutional Research, said. “We would like to see 80 percent of the information we provide accessible within a few clicks for all our stakeholders.”

To achieve this goal Dr. Plott and the DOIR team have developed a four phase strategy to put district data directly in the hands of the DCCCD stakeholder community.

The focal point of this strategy is to implement “common training, common data and a common voice” when it comes to knowledge management.

“We want to demythologize the world of information systems and significantly reduce the amount of time required to train new team members,” said Dr. Plott. “We also want to be proactive by providing self-service tools for our stakeholders.”

Phase One

The first phase included launching a new data request form and redesigning the DOIR website to improve the end-user experience.

The new data request form ties directly into myPortal and makes submitting and tracking requests much easier, while also improving the team’s workflow. Senior Research Analyst Jessica Guillory presented the solution at a conference earlier this year.

The website redesign now puts the most-requested information front and center on the DOIR website. This allows stakeholders to access the information they need quickly without waiting for regular reports to be emailed or searching multiple pages to find the data.

“We’ve built new Facts-Briefs and Fact-Books for the website that are mobile-friendly and can be quickly embedded in the colleges’ websites as well,” said Dr. Plott. “With a stronger emphasis on reporting from the state and our accreditation body, this is information people across the district have been asking for, and they now have it just a few clicks away.”

New Facts-Briefs and Fact-Books will be published on a semester basis as information becomes available.

Phase Two

Phase two of the project is the addition of Informer dashboards on the DOIR website.

Informer is a Business Intelligence (BI) reporting tool that provides metrics and information in an easy-to-understand, visual presentation.

Informer ties directly into Colleague, so information that was previously exported manually from Colleague can now be viewed as needed in a graphical format.

The first round of Informer dashboards is accessible from the front page of the DOIR website for users on the DCCCD Admin Network.

“Utilizing the Informer tool is the first step in our efforts to repurpose how we share, visualize and interact with information across the district,” Dr. Plott said. “We’ve already launched beta tests for several visual dashboards, including degree awards, math and reading readiness as well as other student success measures. We look forward to launching more of these dashboards in the near future.”

College Institutional Research Departments will also be able to use Informer beginning June 2014 to create custom reports and construct dashboards for various college initiatives.

Phases Three and Four

Phase three of the initiative will see the launch of a training institute for research personnel developed by the Institutional Effectiveness & Research Council and Organizational Development. Phase four sets the launch for a comprehensive Business Intelligence model to be released in stages over 24 months beginning Sept. 1.

These new tools will make it even easier for DCCCD stakeholders to quickly view summary information like enrollment statistics and then drill down further into the data to see more detailed information.

“Informer is a great tool for providing standardized, flat reports,” said Dr. Plott. “Our new tool set will give us the ability to link data across a variety of reports and provide multi-dimensional analysis for all our stakeholders.”

The new tools also improve the speed at which information will be updated, allowing for on-demand updates of the data. They will also easily connect with other tools like e-Student Advisor and tools provided by outside reporting agencies like the Texas Workforce Commission.

“With these new tools, our employees will be able to take a look at students enrolled in a two-year HVAC degree, find out what zip-code they live in, compare it to data from the Texas Workforce Commission, find their average salaries and quickly see how much our colleges are impacting the state economy from that one zip-code,” Dr. Plott explained.

“Our goal is to provide the best information management systems possible so our customers have highly relevant and practical Business Intelligence when making decisions to serve the growing needs of our students and business communities,” said Dr. Plott. “We’re excited to launch these new tools for everyone to use and excited to see how they’re able to put them to work.”

To see the new DOIR tools in action, visit