As the future of education becomes increasingly digital, having a secure and reliable data platform that helps deliver better services with increased transparency is imperative for all education stakeholders. Officials from the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) and New York University (NYU) described how they leveraged dashboards and analytics to make informed decisions while improving the return to campus experience for faculty, staff, and students during a webinar hosted by Carahsoft on August 24.

For NYU, Eduardo Molina, assistant vice president at the NYU Institutional Research, said administrators wanted to create two separate dashboards for external users and internal users. The internal user platform is an embedded analytics portal that held data on everything from COVID-19 compliance to course registration.

“We had to figure out how we put together information for our community, for stakeholders, for decision-makers. It was important to have that logistics moment where we could provide something useful externally and internally,” said Molina.

One major use case of this portal was the university’s contact tracing application. Once a positive case was determined, that person’s whereabouts would be determined based on where they swiped their ID. A mass email would then be sent internally to inform others that they may have been potentially exposed.

For UT Austin, analytics from their UT Austin COVID-19 Dashboard ensured that faculty, staff, and students had essential and understandable public health data at their fingertips. It also aided the administration in the construction of their return to campus planning.

“When the pandemic hit, we wanted to get information out to folks as diligently as possible, but also as quickly as possible in a way that was easy to understand and meaningful,” said Dr. Shiva Jaganathan, executive director of Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems at UT Austin. “[The UT Austin COVID-19 Dashboard] gave information to our public for their benefit and understanding about where we were in terms of vaccinations and number of cases. It was updated every day and even helped the different departments make adjustments as they saw fit based on that information.”

Additionally, UT Austin administrators sent out surveys to faculty and students on their learning environment preferences in preparing to return to campus. The data from those surveys and the analytics from the dashboards provided vital metrics to make short- and long-term decisions on class structures, effective instructions modes, and learning outcomes. Ensuring that the university achieves the right faculty balance to accommodate appropriate class sizes and availability in hybrid formats, Jaganathan said.

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