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     DEC. 18, 2008

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Cognos improves student reporting

When the new financial aid software went live in February, two other vital components of the student systems also were released. Complementing Banner, they have made an even bigger impact since the remaining applications went online in July.

Cognos logoCognos, a new reporting tool licensed by the University for all four of its campuses, is now being used by more than 400 West Lafayette and Technology Statewide staff to generate reports from student information in Banner’s reporting environment, the Operational Data Store (ODS). This replaced WebServ (another reporting tool and database) and DSS (Decision Support System), Purdue’s “legacy” database.

Together, Cognos and ODS allow report writers to do more than was possible before Banner.

ODS is refreshed nightly, allowing for access to current data, said Sarah Bauer, director of enrollment management analysis and reporting and OnePurdue student reporting team lead.

Each school and college, in addition to the core student services offices — Enrollment Management, Bursar’s Office, Admissions, Division of Financial Aid, Office of the Registrar and others — are now running student reports using Cognos.

The Office of the Registrar routinely runs more than 50 reports it has created with Cognos, including numerous validated reports (available to all student systems Cognos users), said Monal Patel, assistant registrar for information services. “We’ve been using it heavily since August.”

The department uses Cognos to run course catalog audits and nightly section enrollment reports, and for building graduation candidate lists for the December graduation. The registrar’s office currently is building grade reports with Cognos in advance of online grade submission in December.

“We’re also creating a lot of customized reports for several schools and colleges,” Patel said, “and feedback from the academic community and other offices is helping us improve existing report templates.”

Depending on the type of Cognos license someone has, they also can use an existing report (even if developed by another department) as a template to create a new report tailored to the individual needs of their area.

Isaac Vetter, data architect and administrator in the College of Science, said Cognos, with its Web interface, is a big improvement over Brio, a pre-Banner reporting tool. “It’s saving me a lot of time.”

The College of Science is currently using more than 30 Cognos-built reports, several on a daily basis, he said, and this will continue to grow.

“One of the ways we use Cognos is for diversity reporting, such as tracking our women in science programs,” Vetter said. “How many majors do we have in each department? How does that change over time? How many students are we losing to or gaining from other colleges? We can now get answers to these kind of questions more quickly.”

Vetter currently is working on a report to create admission letters. “This is something that would have been difficult with Brio,” he said.

Because it is Web-based, Cognos can be used from anywhere there is an Internet connection. “This is a big feature for me,” said Matthew Ohland, associate professor of engineering education, who has written several reports in Cognos. “I can work on a report while traveling; it’s really convenient — and still secure.”

Sue Wilder, assistant dean of students, said her office will be using a third-party application with Cognos and ODS data to help conduct Purdue Student Government elections in the spring.

“Cognos is opening a lot of opportunities for us,” she said. “We can do so much more with it than we could with Brio and WebServ. Having access to this data not only helps us plan events and provide better service to the students, but also supports Purdue’s Strategic Plan.”

Dean of Students Tony Hawkins is equally impressed. “Because of Cognos, student reporting will only get better; it allows us to access information we could not in the past,” he said. “There is no question that our services will improve as a result of Cognos.”

More than 450 faculty and staff members systemwide have completed training to use Cognos, including staff from West Lafayette, Technology Statewide and Purdue North Central. “The training was done really well,” Vetter said.

Bauer agrees. “The successful transition from Brio to Cognos owes much of its success to the quality of training provided by ITaP’s instructors. In addition to the active participation of many key report writers across campus, the training we received has allowed us to generate a large number of centrally validated and departmental reports.

“At this time, year-to-year data comparisons are challenging since data must be extracted from both the legacy database and ODS. This will improve within the next few years, however, once full academic history, admissions, financial aid, registration and student account data are all in the ODS.”

Current Cognos users are connected to each other through e-mail, user group discussions and just-in-time demonstrations of available reports, Bauer said, and these opportunities to share information will continue to grow.

“Cognos has extensive functionality we have yet to tap into. We’re just at the beginning of what we can do with this tool.”

More information about student reporting and Cognos is available on OnePurdue’s Student Reporting Web page.


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