Data Initiative Initiative

Data Initiative Survey link


Over the last decade, there has been increasing demand to assess institutional performance and student outcomes from various groups including the System Office, individual colleges, accreditation agencies, grant funders, policy advocates, elected officials, educational organizations, media outlets, and other government agencies.  With these growing demands there is a need for a robust informational system and efficient collection process that result in accurate, timely and accessible data beyond the limitations and scope of the current system.

The Data Initiative officially kicked off on May 4, 2012 and is led by Chris Cline and Bill Schneider.  Executive oversight is provided by Dr. Saundra Williams from the System Office and Dr. David Shockley, President of Surry Community College.  This multi-year initiative will aim to be completed by 2015.

Contact Chris Cline (919) 807-6985 or Bill Schneider (919) 807-6979


The Data Initiative encompasses a collaborative and holistic approach with input from a diverse, cross-functional representation of staff members from the System Office and colleges from across the state.  The Data Initiative Coordinating Team is responsible for determining the Focus Area Teams and recommending strategies resulting in optimal outcomes.  The Data Structure & Entry Steering Committee and Data Access Advisory Team work in symphony to ensure we have an end to end solution from data entry to data analytics. 

The nine Focus Area Teams are subject based groups to address the research needs and associated data elements/definitions as they pertain to student and institutional effectiveness. These nine focus area teams include Basic Skills, Student Characteristics, Student Support, Student Progression, Student Course Success & Learning Outcomes, Course Sections, External Sources, Faculty & Staff, and Finance & Facilities. Below are more detailed descriptions of each of the Focus Area Teams.

Focus Area Teams

BASIC SKILLS:  Enrollment and progression data related to students in Basic Skills programs.  Established and implemented based on immediate federal reporting needs.

STUDENT CHARACTERISTICS: Enrollment related data focused on student admission, entry, background, and characteristics.

STUDENT SUPPORT: Information focused on financial, academic, and personal support, special accommodations provided to students.  Includes assessments of financial and remediation needs.

STUDENT PROGRESSION: Student cohort tracking that includes success rates relating to retention, graduation, transfer, and employment.

STUDENT COURSE SUCCESS & LEARNING OUTCOMES: Student course progression and performance data and associated learning outcomes.

COURSE SECTIONS: Course information and section data that includes course availability, section logistics (where, when and how, length, etc.) and section enrollments.

EXTERNAL SOURCES: Data collected by outside agencies and/or housed outside of Colleague which assist in the evaluation of student and institutional performance.

FACULTY & STAFF: Employee and position characteristics that include salaries, employee background, employment status, and position details.

FINANCES & FACILITIES: Budgetary and facilities information that includes summary, financial data and detailed facilities data.

Partnership with SAS

To facilitate this effort, NCCCS has partnered with SAS to develop a software solution and training to enhance data collection and analysis for the state’s 58 community colleges. The new technologies will position NCCCS to address many data challenges with the current system. We will be better able to create system-wide reporting and dashboards that will allow colleges high level metrics.  In addition a statewide data dictionary tool will provide a necessary reference to assist accurate data entry and provide data element clarity to data users.

Professional development will be provided to ensure consistent data entry and aid users in effectively using the software and dashboards. The nine Focus Area Teams began in Spring 2013 with the aim of completing their initial work within two years. This will facilitate the creation of new data marts for colleges and System Office.

Objectives and Desired Outcomes

  • Expand the individual and collective inquisitiveness of stakeholders within the NC Community College System to ask research questions that inform decisions and policies.
  • Develop data definitions based on research needs and reporting requirements.
  • Ensure data integrity and consistency through appropriate and uniform entering and collecting of information across the System so data extracted are valid and reliable.
  • Incorporate a data review process that ensures accountability through the validation of submitted data.
  • Develop focused topic-based data marts that will serve a wide variety of analytical research needs including, but not limited to, strategic initiatives, grants, and business and student centric needs.
  • Expand information accessibility by making all data users aware of the availability of predefined reports, web-based dashboards, statistical software, and training.
  • Enhance advanced analytical capabilities to empower researchers focusing on specific topics and initiatives.
  • Utilize research findings and reports to educate policy makers on the extent to which various factors impact outcomes, including student enrollment, student learning, student completion, faculty and staff development, budget allocation, etc.

Most Recent Activity Report

December 2013 Activity Report

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 11:39

While the Basic Skills Focus Area Team continues its diligent work on literacy data, their efforts thus far have already resulted in significant benefits to local colleges.

Efficiency: Because the Focus Area Team simplified the Literacy Education Information System (LEIS) form, which collects literacy data for the National Reporting System (NRS), colleges have seen significant personnel and monetary savings because the form:

·  simplified the information collected, reducing the form to two required pages;

·  reduced the time required for faculty/staff to complete the LEIS form, and

·  better aligned the Colleague screens with the NRS report, increasing the efficiency and validity of data  entry.

Data Validity: As a result of new quarterly data reports, colleges now have an opportunity to identify and correct errors before submission of the final report. Through the detailed reports, colleges can isolate students with no placement test scores, no post-test scores, and/or invalid test ranges and determine the causes of those errors. Previously, colleges were faced with manually tracking this information through a variety of spreadsheets and double entry of pre- and post-test scores. Now, faculty and staff can concentrate more fully on instructional quality versus data entry. In addition, colleges now have a better and deeper understanding of the nature and purpose of the data changes as a result of the joint training that was conducted by the subject area experts and the Basic Skills state staff. This combination of technical application with policy implications helped to demonstrate both the how and the why for the data changes.

Student Success: One of the most important impacts, however, of the Basic Skill’s Focus Area Team’s work has been the ability that colleges now have to use data to guide program improvement and student success. For the first time, colleges have quarterly data reports that allow them to view valid and reliable data on student learning gains. Obviously, by tracking student outcomes colleges are better able to identify potential problems and isolate root causes early on. They are able to track their status in relation to both state and federal performance measures and make necessary instructional and programmatic changes as necessary. The end result, as the reports continue to expand, will be improved student success!


Key Values:
•Focus Area Teams (Orange) are documenting research questions, defining data elements, and identifying reporting needs.
•Data Structure & Entry Steering Committee (Red) is approving data elements, reviewing data entry processes, considering data extraction modifications, and developing validation processes.
•Data Access & Training Advisory Team (Blue) will soon be testing new SAS software to determine functionality.  Team will also start assessing reporting needs and data accessibility.
Next Steps: Meetings:
Recent Activity Reports Post date
December 2013 Activity Report 2013-11-26 11:39
September 2013 Activity Report 2013-09-05 15:25
July 2013 Activity Report 2013-07-22 11:54
June 2013 Activity Report 2013-06-19 14:54
May 2013 Activity Report 2013-05-30 14:50
April 2013 Activity Report 2013-04-25 09:27
March 2013 Activity Report 2013-03-28 09:23
February 2013 Activity Report 2013-02-04 11:20
January 2013 Activity Report 2013-01-07 14:51
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