National education ‘single customer view’

The National Student Index (NSI) tracks a student’s education in New Zealand from starting school right through to any post-school study, throughout their life.

The Ministry of Education needs this data to analyse national trends, check standards, identify gaps and predict funding and policy requirements for delivering a quality education.

Student information is entered into the NSI by education providers throughout the country, which provides a ‘single customer view’ – where the student is the ‘customer’. The project was to update the technology, improve data quality and ensure that the Index was allocating a unique identifier to every student enrolled in study in New Zealand.

The Challenge

The education sector is extremely complex with a large number of service providers – from large universities, technical institutes and schools to very small specialist operators, with a wide variety of operating systems. This diversity has led to many inconsistencies in the collected data, and to duplications. For example, when someone married and changed their name a new number was often allocated. To move forward we needed to have third party organisations on board and willing to engage, and in some cases, commit to upgrade their technology.

One of the greatest challenges in this complex environment was how to track students across so many environments, systems and geographies. The key enabler in tracking a student is a National Student Number (NSN) which is assigned to each student on enrolment. The solution to manage the creation, assignment and matching of the NSN against student identities is the National Student Index.

Student information collected includes Date of Birth, Family and Given Name, Gender, Residential Status, NSN and the date the record was created. When a student enrols, the Index searches for matches and will either find the preenrolled student or create a new number.

The Datacom Difference

Datacom was engaged by the Ministry, following a rigorous procurement process, to provide a replacement for the 15-year-old system. Key drivers for change outside a technology refresh included improving the quality of data, the creation of new interface mechanisms to improve security, and taking the opportunity to review business requirements to  ensure the most efficient outcome.

We worked on site to be able to communicate directly with the Ministry’s own project team – to form a ‘single team’, co located partnership, which was a significant benefit. It was clear that a major overhaul was needed and it was an unusual project, with only a small amount of information visible to users and most of the power behind the scenes through four different types of integration.

The solution was based on a modern web application, adopting latest architecture standards and Microsoft development practices. The web application provides a more dynamic and user-friendly experience for the customer. We also introduced a new interface based on a more modern interface language which will eventually replace two existing interfaces. NSI also uses a fuzzy search capability called IQ Office, from Intech Solutions. Whenever a student’s name is = entered, IQ Office searches the NSI database to determine whether or not that person already has an NSI number.

The NSI went live 15 June 2015 without compatibility problems and is performing well.

“This was a very successful project that was carried out in partnership between the Ministry and Datacom.”

Dr David Lambie, Ministry of Education Chief Statistician and NSI business owner