Communicating With Data Users Outside of IR

Ask eAIR covers topics about the work of institutional research, careers in the field, and other broad topics that resonate with a large cross-section of readers. This month’s question is answered by Lindsey Graham Guinn, Director of Assessment and Institutional Research at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania. The ideas, opinions, and perspectives expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily AIR. Subscribers are invited to join the discussion by commenting below.  

Dear Lindsey: How do I communicate effectively with data users outside of the IR office?

photo Lindsey Graham Guinn.jpgInstitutional research is a broad category of work being done at colleges and universities across higher education.  This work informs campus decision-making and planning in a multitude of areas that include financial aid, curriculum, staffing, finances, student life, athletics, development, and enrollment. Because institutional researchers work with staff across the institution to collect, analyze, and report a multitude of quantitative and qualitative data about the institution’s students, faculty, staff, finances, and curriculum, communication is essential.

Below are some tips to communicate with data users outside of the institutional research office.

Identify key data stakeholders across your campus. Consider holding a monthly team meeting to discuss data-related issues across your campus.  Monthly team meetings are a great way to increase mutual investment in the work, plan projects, and communicate new developments.

Develop an institutional research yearly calendar to help stakeholders plan what data they will collect.

Set and communicate due dates in advance. Remember that even the most responsible team members benefit from a single reminder eight to 10 business days prior the due date.

Consider creating a yearly institutional factbook to help your institution identify key data points that are central to your institution.

Develop report templates for offices on your campus to create a culture of clarity and a consistent process for reporting.

Create a survey policy on your campus so that all surveys are registered with the institutional research office to avoid duplication of data.

Educate your faculty and staff on best data practices.

Make data available to key stakeholders at your institution. Don’t just collect data but make it available to others to help inform all campus-level decisions.

Cultivate resources that are unique to your institution that document the research process to help stakeholders be successful. 



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