The Foothill-De Anza Community College district is one of the largest in the United States, with over 60,000 students taking classes every year.
Located in the Silicon Valley area of California, the district includes Foothill College and De Anza College, which serve the communities of Cupertino, Los Altos, Palo Alto, Stanford, San Jose and more.
While Foothill-De Anza’s course and program offerings are some of the most innovative in California, their internal data management processes were in need of an update.
The biggest challenge was that the district wasn’t automating their data. Manual data pulls performed by individual researchers were the only way they could compile their data to create reports to drive decisions — and this process often took weeks, if not months, to complete.
On top of the time-consuming process, the final PDFs that the institutional researchers created were static and couldn’t be narrowed down by specific demographics. This was an especially daunting process when it came time for annual program reviews.
“We need to focus on using data to make better decisions,” said Dr. Kristy Lisle, Executive Vice President of Instruction and Student Services at Foothill College. “Intuition and gut instincts are still valuable, but they need to be backed by data.”
Migrating from Manual to Automated Processes
Foothill-De Anza explored in-house solutions, but none proved to be feasible with the district’s available resources and manpower. Their next option was to find a vendor that could provide an automated solution that would help them achieve a very specific end product they had in mind.
In their search, they shared some of their final documents and asked vendors if they could create an exact, or at least similar, replica using an automated, online platform. Most vendors were either too costly or didn’t offer the functionality the district needed.
Precision Campus proved to be the most customizable platform available, which was just what Foothill-De Anza needed. Not only can they streamline data processes so the district can pull and evaluate information more quickly, their new system also makes it easy to filter by any available demographic to create completely customized documents.
“Since we started working with Precision Campus, we’ve made changes to the functionality and features of our platform to better tailor it to our needs,” said Dr. David Ulate, Executive Director of Institutional Research and Planning at Foothill-De Anza. “I don’t think these additions or customizations would have been possible with another vendor.”
A Cross-Campus Culture Shift
Foothill-De Anza has been with Precision Campus for a few years now, and has seen the following changes in their district:
- A culture shift toward more data-informed decision making
The district is now utilizing processes built on learning and quantitative metrics as a way to develop resources that help inform their decision making.
“Researchers aren’t inundated with data requests like they were before,” said Dr. Ulate. “The responsibility to explore data is in other people’s hands more now, since they can easily access the platform on their own.”
- Improved daily checks and balances
Dr. Lisle uses Precision Campus on a daily basis to evaluate schedules, monitor enrollment numbers and perform cost analyses. “I can see actual day-to-day percentages and compare those numbers to the previous year.”
- More engaged program review processes
Foothill-De Anza now has a tool in place to better engage in the program review processes across both campuses. Their data clearly show them how well each program is performing, without the need for an institutional researcher to compile a report. Precision Campus also created an annual budget form for program reviews and a tool to capture applications for an innovation grant.
- Leadership is more strategically focused
“I strive to be a data-driven leader,” said Dr. Lisle. “With Precision Campus, I can use performance metrics as a form of management.”
Precision Campus continues to evolve right along with Foothill-De Anza, by improving functionality and adding new tools and reports whenever they’re needed. In fact, a tool to help the district balance budgets for their part-time professors is currently in the works.
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