5 essential features to design and populate your university’s COVID-19 dashboard

Expert Insight

5 essential features to design and populate your university’s COVID-19 dashboard

As colleges and universities bring some portion of students, faculty, and staff back to campus this fall, it is critical to track the status of COVID-19 cases on campus. While nearly all institutions track COVID-19 data internally, a public-facing dashboard provides transparency (without compromising student privacy) and helps constituents understand the current conditions on campus. Even institutions offering completely virtual experiences this academic term will benefit from building a COVID-19 dashboard in preparation for future repopulation efforts.

EAB has evaluated hundreds of COVID-19 dashboards since the pandemic began and identified five key features that effective university public dashboards share.

1. Prominently feature information about your institution’s current operational status including opening phases or alert levels

Dashboards that prominently display the institutional operating status quickly inform visitors of the current state of campus. Some institutions, such as Clark University, use numbered or colored alert levels to inform campus operations. Each status alert should then provide an explanation of what that status entails and how status changes are informed by data presented on the COVID-19 dashboard. For example, Elon University’s COVID-19 dashboard displays a COVID-19 alert level at the top of the webpage and links to a detailed document that explains how regional and institutional COVID-19 data informs the alert level.

2. Display regularly updated data on your institution’s quarantine and isolation status and capacity

While almost all dashboards provide information about testing and positive cases, the most robust ones also provide quarantine and isolation (Q/I) data. These metrics, such as current Q/I space availability, help inform stakeholders of how the institution is responding to COVID-19 cases on campus while also demonstrating the institution’s capacity to handle potential outbreaks in the future. The University of Michigan’s COVID-19 dashboard showcases an example of how to display data on the number of individuals in Q/I, as well as the occupancy rate of Q/I housing.

3. Incorporate community data about COVID-19 cases in your local region

Local and regional data helps stakeholders understand the status of COVID-19 in the communities surrounding your institution. This helps contextualize campus data with trends taking place in the wider region, providing a fuller picture of the institution’s situation. Emory University’s dashboard displays COVID-19 data for the counties surrounding their campuses and shows data about the regional health care system’s capacity (i.e., critical care beds, ER beds, general inpatient bed utilization).

4. Update your COVID-19 dashboard daily and note when the latest update occurred

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A daily update ensures stakeholders see the most up-to-date and accurate information for campus. Regardless of update frequency, it is important to note when the dashboard was last updated so stakeholders can understand the lag time between testing results and the reporting displayed on the dashboard. Vassar College’s COVID-19 dashboard indicates the dashboard is updated daily, displays the date of the most recent update, and defines the lag time between testing and the results displayed.

5. Ensure your dashboard is mobile-friendly and accessible

Visitors, especially students, are likely to view your COVID-19 dashboard on both desktop and mobile devices. A desktop- and mobile-friendly dashboard ensures that all visitors can access and explore your COVID-19 dashboard. (If your website hosting platform does not allow this effectively, consider linking to a separate mobile-friendly dashboard, as Creighton University has done.)

Additionally, ensure that any individual can access the dashboard, regardless of disabilities and other barriers. For example, Stony Brook University’s COVID-19 dashboard provides an accessibility link above the dashboard for individuals using a screen reader to explore the dashboard. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s COVID-19 dashboard includes an accessibility statement and encourages individuals to contact their Digital Accessibility Office if they cannot access information on their dashboard.

Take our COVID-19 dashboard flash diagnostic

Answer these ten questions to assess your COVID-19 dashboard’s current state and to determine where your dashboard can improve. The flash diagnostic should take about two minutes to complete.

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