Code2College is a nonprofit organization that helps minority and low-income students achieve tech/STEM careers. To date, Code2College has served more than 2,000 students, placed more than 250 students in tech internships and helped more than 250 of its alumni get into college. To continue these efforts, the nonprofit used Fivetran to better analyze student data and feedback.
- Code2College’s data — student attendance, grades and even teacher input — was kept in spreadsheets or gathered by word of mouth prior to an upgrade in their data approach
- Code2College implemented Fivetran’s Free Plan (previously Standard Select) as a cost efficient and effective method of transferring data from Salesforce, Canvas and Google Drive
- Equipped with a new and trustworthy method of gathering data, Code2College can now quickly analyze student performance and experience. In turn, the organization can more accurately provide curriculum, classes and a learning environment that is aligned with their students' needs.
- ELT: Fivetran
- Warehouse: Google BigQuery
- Connectors: Google Drive, Salesforce, Canvas
- Cloud Platform(s): Google Cloud
Founded in 2016, a group of volunteers recognized that lucrative career paths in technology, and STEM at large, were widely unavailable to low-income and minority students. This founding group began a nonprofit, based in Austin, Texas, that would expose these students to the tech industry and create a pipeline from previously untapped talent.
In the organization’s early stages, the leadership at Code2College acknowledged data would be central to this mission.
“There was a recognition that we needed to start focusing on data so we could both function internally and hopefully, one day, share our data insights,” said Samantha LeBlanc, former Associate Director of Data at Code2College (and now a data consultant for the organization).
From grades to curriculum, to student feedback through surveys, it was imperative that Code2College had access to actionable intelligence to curate the perfect learning environment for its students.
Taking spreadsheets a step further
In Code2College’s early stages, the organization collected and stored all available data within an “assortment of random spreadsheets.”
“My title at the time was Manager of Data and Analytics,” said LeBlanc. “But it’s nearly impossible to perform analytics if the data is scattered all over the place.”
It’s common at Code2College for one member of the faculty or administration to want data on a particular student's performance or an overall view of the student population.
“When someone used to ask me fundamental, basic questions such as — ‘How many students did we serve last year?’ I’d have to scour through 8 spreadsheets,” LeBlanc recalled.
Code2College uses Salesforce for operations, and Canvas as a learning management tool for the students. LeBlanc said pulling information from these services during the early years — to answer a single question — would require a day’s work. It’s important to note, there were only two people on the data team. This workflow became untenable, leading LeBlanc and her team to brainstorm ideas that enabled them to create a speedier and more efficient data-retrieval process.
The data team wanted to implement Google’s BigQuery data warehouse tool to centralize their data. This would give them the ability to streamline retrieval and expedite a reaction from a teacher (a meeting with the student or a shift in lesson plan) should a student need it. However, one question remained. How was Code2College going to get the data from platforms, like Salesforce and Canvas, into BigQuery?
Finding the right ELT solution
LeBlanc took an almost literal trial-and-error approach to her ELT solution research.
“It was a good amount of research, but ultimately it was about starting free trials of a bunch of tools and seeing if they worked,” LeBlanc said.
She recalled simply wanting to run a test case with the various tools to gauge the feasibility with installation and then regular use. Unfortunately, many tools created roadblocks or caused frustration due to clunky setup, outdated or lack of documentation, slow syncs, and poorly modeled data. If LeBlanc wasn’t able to set up a connector within an hour, she discarded the application. However, she quickly realized Fivetran was different.
“What really stood out to me about Fivetran was the ‘Getting Started’ documentation,” LeBlanc explained. “Fivetran made it really easy to get a connector going within ten minutes.”
Code2College now relies on Fivetran for regular, automatic data retrievals, which keeps the data fresh and actionable. Also, if someone puts in a request to the data team, Fivetran helps dramatically accelerate response time from the data team and has even provided self-service capabilities for faculty members.
“The process now is just a simple query that takes us less than five minutes instead of an entire day’s work,” said LeBlanc.
Fivetran not only delivered better performance but also cost savings. LeBlanc explained that Code2College leadership instructed her to approach ELT research from “a place of abundance.” This meant that although LeBlanc should remain fiscally responsible in searching for a solution, she shouldn’t focus exclusively on cost.
LeBlanc came through. By implementing Fivetran’s Free plan (formerly Standard Select), Code2College saw dramatically higher performance at a now zero cost. Fivetran’s Free Plan plan is perfect for LeBlanc and her team because they don’t have a large amount of data to transfer or update. She added that the ability to efficiently use resources is important as a member of a nonprofit.
“We never had a big data problem,” said LeBlanc. “It was just a matter of implementing automation and organization so we can scale. Also, I don’t know if it would have been in the budget to purchase another piece of software this year. So I love that we’ve been able to use Fivetran to connect every piece of data that we wanted to connect.”
Protecting the value of Code2College’s data
When attempting to help low-income and minority students — where there could be a number of socio-economic factors at play — understanding the reasons behind each student's performance is key. Prior to Code2College’s relationship with Fivetran, getting this valuable information was tedious. Teachers may receive information late, and, according to LeBlanc, question if they could trust the data upon receipt. With Fivetran, teachers can now obtain information quickly and trust the data’s accuracy.
“We now detect indicators that students need more support faster than we would otherwise,” said LeBlanc. “So we’re able to know if a student missed the last two classes, and if it’s time to reach out to them and provide timely support.”
Another important benefit is the data team’s ability to move direct feedback from students into the organization’s data warehouse. Code2College conducts student surveys and then stores those surveys in Google Drive.
Through Fivetran’s Google Drive connector, Code2College can more quickly analyze what students are saying about their own experience. LeBlanc provided an example using student feedback on virtual learning.
“After we did a year of virtual learning in 2020, we did a student survey centered around continuing remote classes vs. holding in-person classes,” said LeBlanc. “Most of the faculty and staff assumed the students would want to be back in person with us after being home for a year. However, according to the survey data, 80% preferred to stay virtual.”
LeBlanc explained that some of the students were unable to find a bus that was late enough to take them home after class. They said the virtual classes removed a transportation barrier to Code2College programs.
“This is the kind of thing we want to do more of,” said LeBlanc. “Pulling data that will change the way we function and work better for our students.”
LeBlanc said the goal for the future of Code2College is to eventually increase the integration of their student feedback with student data from Salesforce and Canvas. They might provide revealing and valuable context, especially since they have students in various locations who are undergoing different life experiences. As Code2College continues to use its data to give kids access to tech and STEM careers, they expect Fivetran will continue to play an important role.
The system we have built now with Fivetran is going to scale with us — at least as our data grows for the next 5 to 10 years.”