An overview of the role of data warehouses in higher education IT systems

An advanced connected IT ecosystem and critical insights obtained through business intelligence and analytics could amplify the performance of the teaching and learning process. Large data volumes generated from disparate applications in universities need to be stored in a robust central repository such that it can be leveraged to obtain

An advanced connected IT ecosystem and critical insights obtained through business intelligence and analytics could amplify the performance of the teaching and learning process. Large data volumes generated from disparate applications in universities need to be stored in a robust central repository such that it can be leveraged to obtain business intelligence and analytics. Data Warehouses in higher education technology stack help store current and historical data which can be tailored to the specific needs of the institution.



The following blog will outline the following: 


  • Components of a typical higher education IT infrastructure.
  • Understanding modern data warehouses.
  • How cloud data warehouses enhance the performance of higher ed technology stacks.



”Institutions are responding to the need for a more holistic approach when determining which technologies to adopt and seeking out edtech partners that can help create dynamic, data-informed experiences for their learners. Many campuses have started leveraging cloud-based systems, data lakes, and other intelligent and privacy-secure solutions to enable a comprehensive view of student profiles and behavior.”- Forbes. 



The first step towards an integrated data environment is to understand the role of data warehouses in higher education tech. But what are the applications that typically make up the IT infrastructure in higher education that point towards the need for a data warehouse? 


Commonly used applications in a higher education technology stack: 


Institutions use a complex mesh of technology, with the compulsion to track a various day-to-day operations. Let us consider a few popular ones.



Workday: (HR) 


Workday Student helps educational institutions prepare for radical changes and gears up to service both students and teachers effectively. It helps connect students wherever they are and is designed to be flexible to handle the diverse and distributed vast student population. Student systems are seamlessly connected to finance, HR, and planning, giving the management real-time insights into ongoings on the campus.  

Peoplesoft Campus Solutions is still being used across large campuses and university for various HR operations. 



Salesforce Education Cloud: (CRM) 


Salesforce Education Cloud is a technology suite providing solutions for both the learner and the institution. It helps education institutions operate on an end-to-end framework that includes modules for student admissions, recruitment of staff, student advancement and experience, and overall operations of the institution. It is the platform leveraged for CRM and CX 



Banner: (ERP)  


Banner is a commercial ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, exclusively designed specifically for higher education comprises of several tightly integrated modules that share a single database. It includes self-service options for students, staff, and administrators to help them access features required on the go.  This is a multi-tier reference architecture that contains the infrastructure resources required to deploy available instances of Banner applications on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. 



Blackboard :(Classroom and learning) 


The free Blackboard app helps students to use their mobile devices to stay connected to Blackboard Learn; available for iOS, Android, and Windows devices. Learners can prioritize work using an activity stream that prioritizes events and actions to keep up with upcoming assignments and deadlines. It sets up push notifications on new grades, upcoming tests, and past due dates and also helps view announcements, discussions, etc.  



Tableau: (Higher Ed analytics) 


Tableau analyses student enrolment, achievement, and demographics and helps colleges and universities develop better alumni relations and streamline educational reporting. Both in the classroom and in the lab, the application enhances the learning experience by providing analytics that can be easily understood. It helps students gain valuable data literacy skills and educators can fine-tune their lesson plans. At the same, time administrators discover the best opportunities to explore. Tableau makes the best of available data and is free for active students and instructors.  


However, the siloed data from the applications mentioned above are in different formats, and it’s challenging for stakeholders to draw a 360-degree view of this data. Let us also remember that the objective of technology in higher ed is to enable all-around collaboration to promote inclusivity, the feeling of a community, and enable access, support, and motivation. Now, this is possible only if data present in all disparate applications integrate with other key elements of the tech stack. Why? Just consider a simple overlap of data here. Say a new student gains admission to a higher class and his particulars are entered in the student information system. Now, this data needs to automatically be replicated in the learning system for the teacher and in the ERP. Likewise, his absence needs to go into the learning application for the teacher to understand his position with learning. 



Understanding modern data warehouses in the higher education technology stack:  



Data warehouses facilitate the seamless exchange of data and help integrate relevant applications and store all the data that has been prepared for research, reporting, and advanced analytics. Data warehousing in higher education combines data from numerous sources, campus-wide and beyond. It houses data in a secure manner, ensures it is presented in a uniform format and eliminates and removes duplicate data points. The choice of the right data warehouse will depend on the kind of speed, storage, and ease of use required. Modern databases are optimized to maintain the strict accuracy of data and are designed to give a long-range view of data over time (including data from the database).  


Data warehouse tools efficiently feed standardized contextual data into the business intelligence application thereby enabling a more effective data strategy. ELT (extract, load, and transform technique) is a data ingestion technique that pulls data from various applications into the data lake and then helps it transform for various business purposes as needed. It is enabled by increasingly affordable cloud infrastructure and is fairly helpful to analysts directly who can easily handle transformations with SQL. This allows more departments to self-service their data access. Engineers can also pre-build extract-and-load solutions for popular data sources while using the expertise of external providers for more complicated data sources.  



How do modern data warehouses enhance the performance of higher education tech stack? 


Higher education institutions have been collecting large amounts of data related to students, programs, and on-campus facilities. There is still very less effective utilization of learner, academic or institutional data that can improve resources, processes, and workflows. Consider the following:  


  • Armed with up-to-date analytics, institutions can select innovative approaches to increase student engagement.
  • It can also help improve retention and graduation rates which in turn can impact revenue by obtaining notifications of student engagement from time to time. 
  • By implementing chatbots to deliver personalized content to students.
  • Dashboards, alerts, and communication between faculty and students can help with academic advice.
  • Tracking Alumni Donation 


Streamlined management of resources available for higher education delivering value is imperative for universities today. Data management of those available in the technology stack using customized modern data warehouses is the starting point.