Colleges and universities are increasingly using data analytics to impact their institutions positively. While businesses often use analytics to lower costs, increase profits, or improve customer satisfaction, these goals are not entirely dissimilar from what education professionals can achieve through data projects. But any organization that plans to implement data analysis must develop appropriate goals to succeed.
Though new to many in higher ed, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics can provide measurable impacts to increase enrollment, target student support services, analyze program effectiveness, stay within allocated budgets, and improve student retention. But you can’t reach all these goals at once. In fact, the best way to use analytics to improve your college’s enrollment or retention is to set small, specific, actionable goals.
Successful Use of Analytics for Colleges
To best utilize the data analysis for your institution, consider the following points as you make a plan:
- Gather a Team: You will need to involve many players to implement data analysis successfully. You need people to collect or compile data, analysts to process and produce results, consumers of the data who will then implement strategies in response, champions of the process in the administrative hierarchy, and technical and ethics teams to ensure the information is accurate and appropriately used.
- Align the Goals with Departmental or Institutional Goals: As you consider what information to collect and how to use the analysis results, make sure that your goals support the departmental and institutional goals set forth by university leadership. You will have more buy-in for the process if you can link your goals with institutional priorities.
- Train Team Members in the Use of Data: Not everyone within your institution understands the “what, how, and why” of using advanced analytics to improve outcomes. Consider holding training to give stakeholders basic training on these questions so they can participate and support the effort with some level of knowledge.
- Choose the Type of Goal: In higher education, our goal is often to improve student outcomes, but this is not the only way analytics can help your institutions. Consider these ways you could use data:
- Make an administrative process more efficient and save money
- Improve employee satisfaction
- Increase student or alumni engagement in admissions or any other activity
- Get applicant feedback to make admissions easier for students
- Improve click-through rates on communications and ads
- Broaden outreach to target prospects
- Analyze communications channels to focus budget spending better
- Implement effective proactive outreach to encourage enrollment, attendance, and student success
- Identify students at risk of dropping out
- Plan Your Strategy: Once you know your goals, you can plan the most effective ways to gather the data, process it, and present results. Then comes the satisfying work of making changes to help you reach the goals and, afterward, assessing your results.
Ethical and Transparent Data Use for Colleges
With these wonderful new tools to process data and use the insights, you need to remain mindful of privacy concerns. Using student data is fraught with ethical considerations, and there are instances where data use has negatively impacted some student groups. As part of your effort, ensure that your team includes people who can carefully consider the implications of your use of analytics. Plus, be proactive and transparent about letting students and applicants know how you use data so they can feel confident that their privacy is respected.
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