Student Affairs Dashboard

​Rebecca Garland
Assistant Director of Institutional Research
Office of Institutional Effectiveness
University of St. Francis
 
We created a "Main Dashboard" for the University of St. Francis Board of Trustees with indicators measuring progress on initiatives of the University Strategic Plan. Several Board of Trustee Committees (Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, etc.) also have their own Dashboards measuring indicators reflective of their interests at the University; this Dashboard represents some of the indicators that the Student Affairs Committee would see on a regular basis.
 
We wanted to give an easy "at a glance" view of the data, as well as specific details and targets - so that someone could easily scan the page and then narrow in on specific areas of interest. The left side of the page gives the "at a glance" view of where we are with the stoplight indicators, with current and target values in smaller print. The right side of the page gives a longitudinal view of the indicators, so that one might be able to see the progress made over time.

 
 

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Total Comments: 10
 
Terry posted on 10/9/2013 4:54 PM
I really like the layout of this dashboard. It strikes the right combination of detail and simplicity.
Sam posted on 10/9/2013 5:06 PM
I, too, like this dashboard. It's easy to identify the goal, the indicator and whether the goal is being met for a particular time period. I might, however, use a different color scheme. The colors clearly contrast, but I try to avoid using the same color for different categories across figures. (To be PC, I might not use brown for the Hispanic/Latino category). And, the yellow of the various bars my get confused with the yellow of the stop light indicators. I might also put the stoplight key at the top of that column or at least directly below. It took me a second to find it. The key is also oriented vertically, not horizontally like the stoplight, but that didn't exactly hinder interpretation.
Liz posted on 10/9/2013 8:15 PM
I typically am not a fan of using traffic lights (based upon what I've picked up from Stephen Few and other visualization experts). However, I think you have done a great job of making a lot of information understandable. I would consider replacing the traffic lights with bar charts showing progress to a target, but that may clutter your dashboard and not be visually appealing. Another option would be to make the graphic of the traffic light smaller and increasing the font size of the captions beneath them. It was a little hard to read that text. I agree with Sam that it would be a good idea to use a color other than yellow on the bar chart since you are using it on the traffic lights. I would also look at the vertical axis on the Retention By Class Standing chart. It's hard to see the differences and tightening up (maybe show 70% to 100%) will help make the differences more clear. Great job and thanks for sharing! I am sure this has been a great tool for your school to see how well objectives are being met.
Christinia posted on 10/9/2013 11:09 PM
The graphs are easy to read and explain their intentions. I would consider using a pie chart for the percentages than the "Stoplight Key." This dashboard should be truly helpful and insightful for strategic decisions.
Pam posted on 10/10/2013 8:27 AM
I would move the stoplight key to the top of the page. I spent the enter time reading the charts wondering what in the world the circles were and why there was only text in one of them before I got to the bottom of the page and figured out it was a stoplight. Other than that I really like the stoplight idea.
Nikisha posted on 10/10/2013 9:12 AM
This display provides an excellent example of the usefulness of dashboards when they are executed well. In particular, the juxtaposition of the immediate target with the longitudinal data accomplishes the goal of translating the data into non-technical terms that can easily be applied to assessment and decision-making. My only suggestion is that since the purpose of the graphs is to show change over time, they might be even more effective if they were converted to line graphs.
Tim posted on 10/10/2013 10:53 AM
It's great that you've been able to get administrators to agree on this concise set of indicators. In general I like the layout, but a couple thoughts that might help:
(1) The stoplights are huge and dominate the page. I wonder if you orient them vertically (like a stop light), make them smaller, and use just a black boarder, rather than a filled black box, would help. That would give you more room to highlight numbers (rather then squeezing them in the light itself). (2) It might help if there was someway to visualize your targets on the bar charts themselves--either a reference line or a target bar, etc. (3) Your labeling seems a bit inconsistent--sometimes you use 2 years, other times you use 1; some bars have percents above, others don't. (4) I agree with some of the other comments about hesitation around stoplights--you are competing with embedded definitions of what those colors mean. Green means "go", but we've arrived at our goal--we should divert our attention elsewhere. But red means stop--don't go there. If we wait long enough at a red light, it will eventually turn green on its own. Perhaps we should focus on yellow, because it's going to turn red in 4 seconds; we better hurry up if we want to make any progress ;^)
Betsy posted on 10/10/2013 11:07 AM
This is an interesting and useful presentation of data showing changes happening over time at this school. The color scheme is eye-catching and bright, though the meaning of the colors changes by bar chart.

My biggest concern may relate to the way this is reproduced here, but the text is very difficult to read even with my computer glasses and at about 300% zoom in. The original may be fine in this respect, but it's hard to judge here.

I would also standardize the y axis scales and the language as much as possible, at least for the two retention charts, which both include figures for retention for freshmen. It took me a bit of study to figure out the difference between them for the freshmen represented in both.

Finally, the horizontal stoplights seem to take up relatively more space than they should. I wonder if a vertical presentation of the stoplights would be better, with the text next to the appropriate circle in the stoplight column instead of within the circle.
Don posted on 10/10/2013 12:12 PM
Very good set of indicators presented pretty simply and concisely. I'm also anti-stoplight. Another way to demonstrate progress toward a goal would be to add a goal line to the bar graphs. Take the student athletics graph for example, a simple line at 343 labeled goal would clearly show that the institution is above goal in recent years. That approach would be more complex in the graphs that examine multiple things, but it can still be done. It also makes the stoplights on those a bit awkward, what if you make a lot of progress on one item (e.g. Hispanic enrollment), but none or little progress in the others (e.g. Asian and African American enrollment), is that yellow or green? I see you selected yellow, but I'm not sure why.

I also notice a couple of asterisks in the graduation rate graph. I'm guessing that's because the data is incomplete for those cohorts, but I don't see the note anywhere.
Katie posted on 10/11/2013 9:19 AM
Perhaps re-arranging the elements of this “At-A-Glance” sheet might help to direct the reader and help him/her navigate through the data. For example, is Athletics listed at the top for any particular reason? Can you re-order the elements (e.g. RETENTION top quarter of page, DIVERSITY second quarter, ATHLETICS third quarter, and GRADUATION bottom fourth quarter)
I think the use of stoplights here makes it a bit more confusing than it needs to be. That said, if you are attached to stoplights, then I would definitely not use the same colors (green/yellow/red) on the right side of the page.
I agree with another comment that this is hard to read, but perhaps this is because it is a jpeg image?
I don’t think you need underlining underneath the subheadings (Number of Students Participating in…; Freshman retention to Second Semester/Year…)
I would standardize the Y-axes as much as possible. Also I would be consistent in the way the academic year is presented.
Thank you so much for sharing this. Certainly makes me think about the best way to present information to our Board of Trustees, who happens to be on campus this week!