Analytics is Driving Student Enrollment, Retention, and Placement

education industry

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest – Benjamin Franklin

Just as the eyes act as the mirror to the soul of a person, education reflects the state of a nation’s status and a person’s skills to thrive in the world of competition. For an educator or a teacher, nothing appeases more than their students scoring good grades, getting a job, and staying focused on their subjects for a longer time. The management of colleges and universities are always in a ceaseless look out for ways to further improve student learning and performance. With great advantages stemming out from today’s various technologies, the education sector is revamping at a breakneck pace. Educators now are expanding beyond linear, text-based learning and creating new opportunities for learning and engaging students in best ways.

However, despite the technology penetration, the education industry often faces challenges when it comes to improving student outcomes, retaining students, and placing graduates to successful careers while optimizing institutions’ infrastructure. The education industry has witnessed several technological trends over the years; analytics is one of the major trends that has been propelling the industry and strategically improving the quality of education. More higher educational institutes are jumping on the analytics bandwagon and reaping its benefits by making student experience better. Here are a few examples:

  • Seton Hall University increased their enrollments by 13% via social analytics and reporting
  • Arizona State University improved retention rate by 8% using predictive analytics to identify students at risk of failure and by providing them support
  • Wichita State University’s placement model showed 96% accuracy after analytics intervention in identifying students who could perform well in placements

Now let’s drill down to know more on how analytics intervention improves education and student experience.

Analytics in Student Enrollment

Most people today seem to be preoccupied with social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on.  A lot of users share their daily experiences on these sites. And a vital part of a student’s life relies on social media. When a student enters a college, he/she is extremely thrilled about the new atmosphere and spends his/her time by interacting with the existing student folk and building relationships. Much of the college experience is about the relationships students build once they arrive on campus — in the classroom, in the dorm, and during on-campus events and organizations. Along the same vein, these experiences when shared on social media websites can attract prospective students.

Understanding the power of social media, marketers of universities sought to reach prospective students through social media rather drawing them to the university sites. The sole aim of this approach is to engage students earlier in the recruitment process and concurrently increase enrollments. However, there exists a tight spot with regard to engaging the future students in a meaningful way and unleashing the complete potential of social media. By embracing social media sites as important recruitment channels, universities can capture data from social media interactions and perform high-level analyses.

education industry

Seton Hall University (SHU) is a major Catholic university located in South Orange, New Jersey. In a diverse and collaborative environment, it focuses on academic and ethical development. The university used the capabilities of social analytics to increase enrollment. Using social analytics and reporting, the marketers of the university examined the behavior of  visitors. Additionally, prospective students used Facebook pages to connect with current and prospective students, self-forming groups based on majors, common interests, geographical location, and even residence-hall room number.

Analytics in Student Retention

Student retention is one of the most discussed issues in the higher education sector today. With a huge percentage of students dropping out of school each year, universities are constantly challenged, but few have contrived a practical solution to this growing quandary. Despite high-end efforts on recruitment, colleges and universities have failed to retain many enrolled students. The authorities of the colleges have already reached a breaking point owing to the budget constraints and challenges in developing and instituting a feasible student retention program or solution.

Gone are the days when a college’s reputation was tagged to its ability to weed out poor performing students. Now colleges have initiated new approaches to ensure student success and retention. Moving beyond the sink or swim attitude, colleges are now more concerned about providing students with the support they need to achieve success. This is where predictive analytics is proving to be a silver bullet by allowing universities to identify key drivers of early attrition and track profiles of students with high dropout risk, thereby making appropriate interventions in a timely manner to maximize retention.

Founded in 1846, Taylor University has a student retention rate of 85% and a six-year graduation rate of 80%. Taylor University started improving its retention rate by leveraging its siloed data; using this data, the university identifies at-risk students and ensures that they receive relevant advice such that they are more likely to continue into their sophomore year. Edwin Welch, the university’s director of institutional research and associate registrar, believes that advanced predictive analytics is capable of providing accurate insights for improving retention rate. Along the same vein, a premier university in the US was able to predict students’ probability of dropping out with the help of Bridgei2i’s predictive analytics solution for student retention. Read the complete case study here.

Analytics in Student Placement

As the placement season arrives, colleges are seen gearing up to score the highest percentage of placed students in comparison to its peers. However, there is simmering tension between the students and college placement committees. Of late, there has been increased criticism of assessment and placement practices that take place in colleges. Some critics consider assessment tests to be inaccurate and not competent enough when it comes to predicting how students will perform in the areas where they are placed. Universities have gathered huge databases consisting student demographic, enrollment, and results data. Many a time these data are used to track student progress, predict their future performance, and determine who is succeeding and who is not. While embracing the data deluge, colleges are gradually opening up to predictive analytics. The application of predictive analytics in institutions of higher education is still in a nascent stage, although it has been used in other industries for many years, especially in the area of assessing consumer behavior.

The Hamilton County Education Department in Tennessee has used predictive analytics to measure how good students will perform on standardized tests. More specifically, the department developed a software that informs educators of the level of proficiency a student would place, and the probability of those placements. Based on predicted scoring patterns, the department was able to determine whether specific services are necessary to ensure students’ success. Since 2000, the percentage of students who tested at or above their grade level increased by 56 percentage points (18 to 74 percent).

education industry

Diligent Approach to Analytics Success in the Education Industry

Failures can be disheartening but they often leave behind lessons to be taken for future success. One cannot ignore the failure ratio that comes with analytics deployment. Reasons of analytics deployment failure can be many; they could range from the lack of readiness of an organization to embed analytics into the fabric of every operation to the absence of a thought leadership team that has analytics for a second language. In parallel, the lack of investments for a great team of people that bring strong experience and expertise in several areas, including analytics and innovation, can restrict an institution from deriving the benefits of analytics projects.

At times, the management teams in educational institutions do not view analytics as a necessary investment, and they mistakenly perceive analytics tools to be a rather expensive approach that would not bring in sufficient returns. Therefore, adoption of analytics technologies remains low in the education industry. Compared to the industry average of 22%, the adoption of business intelligence solutions remains stuck at 3-5% across higher education institutions. However, it is likely that more educational institutions worldwide will embrace a more digital approach in the near future. For effective outcomes to be seen, it’s important for these institutions to understand and value the human interpretation side of analytics.

Data, by itself, will not mean anything without valuable human interpretation, insights, and action. Furthermore, academia has a reputation for being inherently dubious of commercial partnerships. For successful results, educational institutions should come forward to form an analytics-driven culture, forge profitable partnerships with analytics solution/service vendors, and strengthen student-university relationships. The real results of analytics intervention will be visible only when an educational institution learns to embed analytics into its linchpin and look at analytics in a more positive light.