Student retention and success are among the top issues faced by universities and other higher education institutions today.
Whether academics or administrators, all want students to succeed, and institutions have invested significantly towards that end for a long time. Student retention and success also directly impacts other critical areas such as enrollment and funding. In that regard, there is little wonder why colleges and universities have tapped into a vast array of methods—from using consultants to implementing best practices, relentlessly measuring outcomes and evaluating efforts—to make gains in retention and graduation rates.
Still, fostering student success remains an uphill task, especially with retention and graduation (a huge focus). This leads to a few questions: How can institutions better help students stay on track? How can they identify students who need help and provide timely intervention? What kind of intervention should be provided, and who (faculty, student support?) or what (classroom, mobile learning?) should be delivering it?
In seeking to unravel this complex challenge, it is evident that higher education institutions need to harness one of the most abundant resources they already own: data. Colleges and universities are, by and large, data-rich. Unfortunately, not many can claim they are information-rich in comparison to the trove of data they own.
Today, the tools to turn analytical insights into action from data are increasingly ubiquitous. Students and staff are exposed to them every day as consumers. Social sites are making product recommendations based on our browsing history. Fitness programs are suggesting the best workouts based on our past training regimes. The good thing is, these tools are also increasingly accessible, giving higher education institutions no excuses not to become more “insight-driven.”
Becoming a digital university
So, what does it mean to be an insight-driven education institution or a digital university? Simply put, it means every decision is informed by real-time data.
This will completely refocus how these institutions’ outputs are measured, analysed, and acted upon to deliver the outcomes they desire. No longer will it be about how many programs are in place to improve student retention or whether axing an ineffective investment is the right thing to do. With actionable, real-time insight, the university knows what the optimal decision should be.
What does it mean to be a digital university? Simply put, it means every decision is informed by real-time data
By harnessing existing data, universities can discover the profile of students who have been successful and who have not. Institutions can learn about the students who enrolled, dropped out, transferred, or graduated, and why each eventuality occurred. From that, educators can better manage resource constraints, including identifying where to concentrate efforts, reallocate funds and staffing, and maximise investments to drive the best outcomes.
One of the key benefits stemming from being insight-driven is the ability to optimise faculty engagement across channels to tailor educational support. This drives flexible and personalised learning, one of the key ingredients of student success.
But being an insight-driven education institution is not merely about implementing systems for Big Data and predictive analytics. Management support, culture, and mindset are crucial elements. Colleges and universities are large, decentralised institutions—stretching across multiple schools, faculties, and sites. Success depends on buy-in across all levels. To gain traction, it is imperative to create not only useful insights, but also to facilitate the delivery of these insights across school stakeholder groups—whether they are faculty, advisers, or administrative staff. When they can use these data-driven insights to resolve the challenges that are on their plates at that very moment, the value of data will very quickly be appreciated.
How it all comes together
Visualise an insight-driven education institution scenario in action—where student data is captured from enrollment to graduation and beyond, supported with IoT technology and an in-memory data platform.
Jane, a freshman, carries a device on campus and in the classroom that sends a signal to the campus network. The signal is combined with Jane’s profile, including data from the learning management system, and predicts Jane’s learning needs.
The system pushes learning information predictively to Jane’s device and maintains measurements of her learning journey. When Jane is unclear about certain concepts being taught, she can ask questions in the learning management system forum, which proactively provides answers in real-time via push messages on the screen, or schedule a tutor to call Jane directly.
After a few weeks, the system proactively evaluates that Jane may need extra tutoring on a specific area in Advanced Econometrics, based on the past profiles of the students who asked similar questions. It suggests the best options—in the classroom or through a mobile tutoring system—for Jane’s needs. From Jane’s contact with her course materials on her device, as well as through her ratings, faculty can also understand how engaged Jane is. Alerts about under-performance on milestones also provide advisers with insights on how better to help Jane succeed.
When applied in this manner, data unleashes new power for higher education and research institutions. And this is but just one example of how colleges and universities are using technologies and innovating to strengthen pedagogy, drive adaptive learning, and enhance student retention and success.
The digital age calls us to deliver such value for students—our customers. Ultimately, this value will drive the success of your institution.
Interested to know what are the top five technology trends in higher education? Get the report here.