For higher education institutions, dealing with the multiple challenges and priorities of their core mission is often a complex affair. Their primary focus always remains the same – attract the best students and provide the best education possible. However, many lose sight of the more intricate details that can help them provide students with high-quality education. Today, the student lifecycle has become longer than ever, as it spans various physical and virtual touch points. The manner in which higher education service providers approach this lifecycle can, therefore, significantly influence their attractiveness as an institution of choice.
The relationship between a student and an institution begins the first time the former hears the institution’s name. It then continues for the rest of their lives. Every point of interaction represents an opportunity for the education provider to add value in the prospective student’s life. Needless to say, this is easier said than done. Managing this relationship is difficult, and it requires a level of insight that institutions have traditionally found difficult to obtain.
The very first step is for higher education institutions to realize that influencing present and future students is a process that takes places at different stages. Each stage requires a degree of personalization which is only possible to leverage by utilizing information obtained from various data channels. Students are individuals first, and each have different expectations and preferences for picking their institution of choice. Knowing this beforehand can prepare institutions with the tools to enhance their reputation, application rate and graduation rate.
Data: At the heart of improving the student lifecycle
Once a student has entered an institution’s community, it is the institution’s responsibility to ensure their education goals are being met at every step. Students’ expectations must be met via the best learning environment, curriculum and faculty through all academic years. However, institutions must also focus on other stages of the lifecycle, including application, enrolment, admission, tenure, post-graduation and alumni.
Excelling at each of these stages requires careful monitoring of institutional performance at all times. The insights gained can allow education providers to meet the evolving needs of existing students, and also alter their offerings to meet the expectations of future students. Determining the best means to carry out such monitoring has always been hard enough – but institutions today have the luxury of data and analytics to aid them. While institutions have traditionally got distracted by factors such as costs, competition, compliance and more, they can now maintain an unflinching focus on self-improvement.
In this context, institutions should ask themselves some tough questions, including whether they are employing the best technologies for education delivery. They should also assess if their faculty are leveraging the most appropriate learning tools, and whether they are analyzing the most meaningful data to make smart decisions that can elevate their performance and reputation. This self-evaluation exercise should also include conducting campaign monitoring, brand sentiment analysis and competitive intelligence.
In order to get the best answers to these questions, data is freely available across several channels as long as it is consolidated and collated properly. Such data can be harnessed for something as basic as improving communication with a student upon the first point of contact, to something far more complex like enhancing the post-graduation experience byoffering alumni networking opportunities through smartphones.Since social media and mobility tools are greatly influencing the decision making of students, higher education providers also must use these tools to build their brand and offerings.
Call in data analytics experts who know what makes student lifecycles tick
Education providers who understand the value of a third-party agency in this context are usually the leaders in deploying innovative teaching techniques. Figuring out specific challenges and devising unique data-driven solutions is something institutions may find difficult to divert resources toward; so, hiring a third party is not a bad idea at all.
For instance, effective data analytics can guide an expert to advise an institution about all the steps it should take for imparting better education. Recommendations can include a broad range of topics – improved faculty retention, enhanced student housing and cohort tracking, high-quality research and publications, and more. This information can help:
- Improve student experiences and influential variables
- Identify patterns and causes that influence experiences the most
- Eliminate boundaries for sharing information across campuses or between institutions
Partners who are adept at data analytics can scan through diverse channels of student interactions across the lifecycle, and consolidate data in real time. Some traditional institutions may not even be aware of the existence, let alone the importance, of some of these channels. Improving institutional operations such as HR and facilities management is equally important, and third-party vendors can objectively study relevant data to make even these parameters more uplifting and memorable for students.
Strategic planning for higher education institutions to master the student lifecycle can only be perfected with the help of insightful data – data that reaches the right people at the right time. Successful use of this data can help them define and pursue clear goals that improve their reputation and admission rates, not to mention the satisfaction rates of students. In the 21st century idea economy, it is only with the help of such data that education providers can achieve their educational mission and promote their students’ academic progress.