Blackboard is an industry leader in educational technology. Through their range of tools and services, Blackboard continues to develop the standards driving education technology and learning outcomes in higher education.
As Blackboard has expanded its scope to include K-12, higher education, adult continuing education and workplace learning, their services now impact millions of people worldwide. Accordingly, Blackboard is a key voice in the future of education and technology.
Massive Data, Diverse Sources
Blackboard relies on extensive data from thousands of sources, including data from over 7,600 institutions of higher education within the U.S. With that, a large volume of Blackboard’s data comes from mandatory annual self-reporting from education institutions and includes well over 300 tables of information. Blackboard tracks and holds this data for five - fifteen years and as a result adds between two and three million rows of data to their records each year.
In addition to these static reports, Blackboard collects public data from many divergent sources, such as the Bureau of Labor Management, and also regularly purchases proprietary data to form a complete picture of the educational landscape. All of this information is used to generate performance benchmarks and expectations of performance for their thousands of clients.
Blackboard stores all their collected data and reports in Amazon RDS, particularly the PostgreSQL database offering within Amazon RDS. Once the collected data is housed within Amazon RDS, Blackboard then pushes the massive amount of data into Chartio for analysis.
Blackboard’s secondary data sources are CSV files which are directly uploaded in Chartio and blended with the data stored in Amazon RDS.
While a great deal of the data Blackboard collects is static data, the massive and extensive amount of data from different sources for different purposes requires an extremely sophisticated Business Intelligence solution for analysis and the implementation of a proper data strategy. As Peter Layton, Senior Manager of Client Services, notes, “true power is when you can look at disparate sets of data and understand how they relate to each other.”
Because each source Blackboard deals with is unique and extensive, the team needed a BI solution that could be agile and allow them to pull in different types of data with the ability to have them converse with one another.
Leveraging Chartio’s Dashboard Variables
Peter and his team pull their data from Amazon RDS and into Chartio. They start with six to ten standard dashboards but what Peter has found most helpful are Chartio’s Dashboard Variables.
As they customize their dashboards to work with their different data sources, many of Blackboard’s Chartio dashboards have twelve to fifteen variables that allow the team to filter, drill down and reconfigure their data to understand it in a new light.
“Chartio has given us the power to transform data on the fly, and our teams and clients both love the ability to tell a story about what we discover,” said Peter.
Peter also notes that he is surprised with how easy it is to constantly change data as well as how easy it is to pull pre-built visualizations into new dashboards. “With Chartio, we can plug in three data sources and have them start talking to each other to gain deep insights about our client institutions within minutes.”
The ability to quickly and easily visualize such extensive data has been a key asset to Blackboard’s success. By efficiently streamlining the interpretation process through the variables feature, Blackboard has had the power to make new comparisons and ask new questions they had not anticipated.