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   from the issue of April 3, 2008

IRP creates online index of UNL data


A new Web page is making it easier to track down campus facts and figures.

Developed by Institutional Research and Planning, the Data Index ( organizes a variety of reports into a single reference point, placing the information a mouse click away.

"Many people didn't realize we had this mass of data online, and if they did, they quickly found out that it was too cumbersome to really look through," said Lauren Drees, assistant director of Institutional Research and Planning. "The data index allows us to better organize the data we have available online. Now, the data index takes you right where you need to go - no fuss, no muss."

Data index topics include faculty/staff and student demographics; credit hour information; degree statistics; retention and graduation rate trends; tuition, fees and financial aid information; UNL financial reports; campus space and facilities use; and other general information.

The site was put into use in November. Drees said the data index concept grew from customer requests.

"The data index started as a printed list of information to help answer questions posed by our customers," Drees said. "We took that list, built upon it and took the next step to create the online data index."

Along with providing current academic year information, the data index also provides facts and figures from previous years. Through index search functions, the information can be gathered and compared to track university trends over time.

"Through the data index, you are able to break things down and compare data such as student enrollment or ethnicity from year to year," said Doni Boyd, a programmer for Institutional Research and Planning. "It's so much easier than trying to gather the same data from, for example, the annual (UNL) fact books."

The data index site also offers an instructional video. Erica Larsen, a graduate research assistant in University Communications, designed the video.

Drees said the data index will be especially helpful when the census figures are released in the fall.

"We work hard to get that information out as fast as we can," Drees said. "We gather the information on the sixth day of the fall semester. We clean it up and reproduce it in reports. It takes some time to produce physical reports and about two weeks to get the information out the door."

While the need for printed reports will remain, Drees and Boyd indicated that data will be available on the data index very quickly after it is gathered.

"For anyone needing to gather information for insight or decision-making campus reports, the new data index will prove a useful tool," Drees said.

For more information, contact Institutional Research and Planning at 472-2097.



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