Data Resource Roundup, Vol. 8

June 27, 2017

By Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation 

Welcome to the eighth edition of the Data Resource Roundup! In this series we will periodically share resources, including blogs, courses, white papers and other tools, that cover various aspects of data. Whether it’s better managing and tracking data or getting your organization to become more data-driven, it will all be here in the Roundup. Have your own resources that we should feature here? Be sure to let me know about them via email or by putting them in the comments. Want to see previous volumes? See Vol. 1 here and here, and check out Vol. 2Vol. 3Vol. 4Vol. 5Vol. 6, and Vol. 7.

STUDENT MIGRATORY PATTERNS: Students, like birds (and maybe other animals; I’m not clear on that), migrate. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a handy college- or state-level interactive that examines the flow of incoming freshman classes from 1998 to 2014. Does your state have a brain drain or a brain gain? Do your students have a ton of state pride and want to know their odds of sharing a dorm with a fellow [insert state-level demonym here]? All questions answered here.

“WHEN ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE FAILS”: This piece from the Stanford Social Innovation Review struck a chord with me, given how many stories about organizational changes and transitions we hear about from NCAN members. David La Piana notes, “The technical, initiative approach is also ill suited to most organizational strategic challenges. Why? Because a new strategy requires, in a very real sense, a new culture to carry it out.” He goes on to outline three steps to every strategic challenge: “1. Defining the problem correctly; 2. Devising the correct strategy to address it; 3. Moving the culture to implement the changes necessary to make the strategy a success.”

DASHBOARD BUILDING ADVICE, PT. 47 OF 4,848: I’m often asked about building dashboards. There are two questions about building dashboards: the technical how and the abstract how. The Association for Institutional Research tackles a little bit of both succinctly, and gives some advice for those just starting out. Pro-tip: “Traditionally, the data elements you want to place the greatest emphasis upon are placed in the upper left of your dashboard page. From there, more attention is paid to data elements down the left side and in the center of the page. The bottom and right side of your dashboard layout will receive the least amount of attention.”

LISTEN UP: Getting Smart has Mark Milliron, co-founder of Civitas Learning, on a podcast to discuss “the four rights”: “You have to build the right infrastructure, to get the right data, to the right people, in the right way.” Milliron discusses his work engineering postsecondary pathways for student success through data and nudges.

HAVE A CARE FOR THE UNDERAPPRECIATED DOT PLOT: This is short and sweet: dot plots are undervalued compared to nested bar charts. If you want to make some dot plots after reading this, I can’t blame you. Here’s how.

GO AHEAD. KEEP DABBLING. SEE WHAT HAPPENS. Public Profit has a handy resource called “Dabbling in the Data” which offers “field-tested ways for teams to make meaning of data, including refreshers on key concepts for rigorous analysis techniques. These collaborative, team-centered activities teach how to analyze data in a meaningful way, engaging the group in rich discussions to interpret the data. More importantly, Dabbling helps teams determine how to respond to what they find. Dabbling in the Data provides step-by-step guidance on 15 different approaches, organized into five sections: distribution, change over time, contribution, categories, and communicating findings.” I’m not normally a fan of icebreakers, but sign me up for these.

OUR LONG, NATIONAL Y-AXIS NIGHTMARE IS OVER: Our world faces many troubling challenges, one of which is inconsistent Y-axis placement in data visualizations. The ever-reliable Stephanie Evergreen attempts to settle the question of where to settle the Y-axis placement question. No qualms on any of her assertions here from me. Endorsed!

A MULTMEDIA PROGRAM EVALUATION EXPERIENCE UNLIKE ANY OTHER: Mathematica Policy Research, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education’s Regional Education Laboratories (REL) program, is out with a video series around conducting “opportunistic evaluations.” Those interested in learning more about how to integrate evaluations of your services and activities into an existing program can start here.

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