staff and students, as well as save money. The university
will spend less on purchasing and supporting its own e-mail
servers, software and storage, explains Ellen Puffe, an associate editor at the Office of IT.
Pinpointing 911 calls
ANALYZING STUDENT DATA
With approximately 16,700 students, the Rochester
Institute of Technology (RIT), in Rochester, N.Y., started
using data warehousing nearly two years ago to better
analyze its student data in order to improve retention and
graduation rates and build reports faster. “We realized that
we had huge volumes of data, but we were not doing a good
job of leveraging that information,” says Kevin Dudarchik,
manager of data management services.
In the past, RIT’s Institutional Research office provided
paper reports on student enrollment. But when administrators in various departments wanted to drill down into
specific data, they had to request the information from
Institutional Research, which sent them paper reports. To
manipulate the data in those reports, the administrators
had to rekey the information into their Excel spreadsheets.
Now, with the data warehouse, the administrations
“are empowered to drill down and create their own ad hoc
reports and then do analyses,” says Kim Sowers, director of
RIT used Informatica software to build its data warehouse, and chose Oracle Business Intelligence Discoverer
as its query, reporting and analysis tool. The university is
also using Informatica’s integration software to tie different
software systems together.
For example, the IT staff recently built a student housing
application and study-abroad application. In the past, data
from the mainframe-based student information system
would have been updated to the student applications only
once a day through FTP. Today, with the software connecting the mainframe to the new applications, the student
information is updated hourly.
With 15GB of data, RIT’s data warehouse is still in its
infancy, but the university has a steering committee that is
brainstorming ideas for future data warehousing reports.
“People have begun to see what this technology can do, and
their wish list is growing rapidly,” Dudarchik says.
For the first time, emergency dispatchers who
receive 911 calls from Coppin State University will
know the exact location of the callers—a technological advance that speeds response times and
helps save lives.
In the past, 911 calls from the Baltimore-based
college gave emergency dispatchers only the main
campus address. If students or staffers dialing
911 were too incapacitated or stressed to give
their exact location, emergency responders would
arrive on campus, and with the help of the campus
public safety department, hunt for the caller’s location—not an easy task when the campus has 16
In January, the university deployed e Telemetry’s
Locate911 appliance on its Avaya VoIP system. This
technology splits the campus into several hundred
zones, so when someone calls 911, emergency
dispatchers are notified which zone the caller is in,
says Ahmed El-Haggan, Coppin State’s CIO and vice
president for information technology. The campus’
public safety department is also notified through
text and e-mail messages, so they can respond at
the same time.
“Before, it was like trying to find a needle in a
haystack,” El-Haggan says. “Now, we know which
building, which floor and the area of the floor they
are calling from.”
In Palm Beach County, Fla., the school district standardized
on IBM’s Cognos business intelligence tool and IBM’s DB2
Universal Database, which houses the district’s 143GB data
warehouse. The data warehouse extracts information from
multiple data sources daily, including the student-informa-tion system, which includes schedules, grades, academic
history and a history of disciplinary action. It also collects
information from the state, including state assessment
The data warehouse, built in 2003, was first deployed to
administrators; then, in 2007, the district’s 12,000 teachers
were given access. When educators log in to the BI system,
they have access to 400 reports. They can compare data
between schools within the district and also compare the
entire district with other districts, Conley says.
The Palm Beach County district has been expanding
the warehouse to include data from the human resources
and transportation departments, and is looking to include
textbooks and facilities information. With HR data, the
district can run reports to determine whether students
perform better when their teachers have more advanced
college degrees, according to applications development
manager Michael Via.
If a school bus is running late, staffers in the transportation department can run a query to determine which
students are on the bus. The resulting report provides the
students’ names and their parents’ phone numbers, so the
staff can alert the parents that the bus is late, he says.
The district recently upgraded to the latest version of
Cognos 8, which produces reports much faster because it
runs queries sequentially rather than in parallel mode. As
for ROI, the best evidence of the data warehouse’s positive
impact is that Palm Beach County is the only urban district
in Florida to receive an “A” grade for five straight years on
state assessment scores, graduation rates, absenteeism and
“With this data, the entire process of learning is accessible, enabling us to make improvements,” Conley says. 3
Please send your questions and comments on
this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.