Data Resource Roundup, Vol. 5

October 26, 2016

By Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation

Welcome to the fifth 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 of data or getting your organization to become more data-driven, it will all be here in the Roundup. Have your own resources that should be featured here? Be sure to let me know about them via email or by putting them in the comments. Want to see the previous volumes? See Vol. 1 here and here, and check out Vol. 2, Vol. 3, and Vol. 4.

DATA, FOR YOUR EARS: I’ve recently gotten into podcasting as a way to learn new skills and hear new arguments. I don’t always have time to sit down and read long pieces, but I’m often walking around and/or can knock one out on my lunch hour. That preface established, here’s a podcast from Jake Porway, founder and executive director of Data Kind, giving a keynote address at Data on Purpose this past February. Jake’s address is all about storytelling with data, best practices for conveying information, and better understanding what your data are actually saying. Here’s his accompanying presentation.

TRACK STUDENT PROGRESS: A new tool from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation’s Dell Scholars Program, GradSnapp, offers another option for programs that want to manage and visualize student data and track student progress. GradSnapp integrates with ScholarSnapp, a free tool that helps students simultaneously submit applications to multiple scholarship providers. NCAN’s Communications Manager Allie Ciaramella has more at the NCAN blog.

BECOME DATA-DRIVEN: NCAN, in collaboration with Exponent Partners, recently published a two-paper series on how organizations can become more data-driven. The first paper, “Driving Toward Program Improvement: Principles and Practices for Getting Started with Data,” focuses on building a data-driven mindset, refining your logic model, adopting data management practices, and building your capacity. It’s for programs in the earlier stages of becoming data-driven. The second paper, “Roadmap for Tracking Your Student Results: Program Data and Systems,” provides a review of some foundational steps, frameworks for data management with a system, and analysis methods.

DON'T FORGET TO DISAGGREGATE: Data nerds (an assured term of endearment) love data disaggregation. In layman’s terms, disaggregation is just a fancy word for “break it apart.” Disaggregating data involves taking the whole and splitting it up into its component parts (e.g., looking at data by race, gender, advisor, state, etc.). The Annie E. Casey Foundation thinks disaggregation is important; so important, in fact, that they have an entire guide on disaggregating data for policy, practice, and decision-making. It’s worth a read for some new strategies for looking at your data. 

WE WANT YOU TO EXCEL: Get it? A little data double entendre there for you. VLOOKUP is a powerful Excel tool, and lots of NCAN members are still using Excel. Oz du Soleil, a quirky, charismatic Excel expert and author of the Excel On Fire YouTube channel, walks viewers through this video, which helps to connect different sheets or sources of data and can help you to search for data quickly and efficiently. For example, want to match names and demographic info into an Excel sheet based on the student IDs in another sheet? With VLOOKUP, you can do that in a flash. After you’ve learned VLOOKUP, be sure to also check out videos on using AND/OR as well as AND/OR/IF.

“UH-HUH. DATA…CHECK.” This handy checklist from Deborah Elizabeth Finn, a nonprofit strategist and consultant, is a useful tool for any program collecting data, regardless of its experience level. The checklist walks through the five W’s and one H (remember your student newspaper?) around data collection. If you’re considering adding a new metric or reconsidering whether you need to keep an old one, this is a handy rubric that can give you some insight into its value.

IT HAS A PICTURE OF A UNICORN USING A DATABASE: This cheeky little list instructs readers on “How to Use Your Database to Ruin Productivity in 5 Easy Steps!” Jim Willsey admonishes those who think Excel alone is enough as a database, those who maintain separate departmental systems, and those keeping systems and processes secret, among others. If you see your program reflected in here, it may be time to rethink some of your practices!

Stay tuned until next time for even more resources on data and evaluation!

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