On October 21-23, Eduventures hosted higher education leaders from across the country for a three-day discussion on improving the student lifecycle. Our line-up of expert keynotes represented a diverse mix of perspectives shaped by data, research, and unique experiences serving both the traditional and adult student markets—all infused with a healthy dose of the latest technologies.
To provide you a flavor of this meeting, we’ve included five key insights that were presented at the conference by our featured Eduventures analysts. They address a broad range of topics, including prospective student mindsets, social media engagement, designing online programs, the recipe for student success, and leveraging constituent relationship management (CRM) for retention. Flip through the slideshow, or scroll down to see all five snapshots!
1. Re-Writing Student Segmentation
Source: Eduventures Prospective Student Survey, (2016).
Recruiting and serving students from a position of true empathy means understanding your students as more than the average of their behaviors and demography. While all students are individuals, there are common, defined behavioral and attitudinal mindsets they hold regarding their upcoming educational experience. It’s up to you to know, understand, and engage with these different types of students in your institution.
In our Summit session, “Insights and Trends from the Eduventures Prospective Student Survey,” we shared six student mindsets based on the expected outcomes, desired experiences, and decision criteria of traditional students (Figure 1):
- Social Focus: College is primarily a social experience with a good job, a foundation for career, and lasting friendships at the end.
- Experiential Interests: College is a time to get hands on with internships, study abroad, and employment as you work toward your career.
- Grad School Bound: College is all about developing the academic and technical foundation for your future in graduate or professional school.
- Career through Academics: College is about finding your way to a solid career through a balance of academic and career activities.
- Career Pragmatists: College is about finding your way to a career at an affordable cost through campus community.
- Exploration and Meaning: College is all about finding meaning in your life and sharing it with others around the world.
Segmenting your market in this way allows you to develop meaningful communications and recruiting experiences, and to consider the opportunity for each student to find a resonant pathway to the outcome they desire at your institution.
2. Moving from Social Media Management to Engagement
Technology used to foster social engagement is now commonplace in industries outside of higher education. This means that millennials—and the up-and-coming Generation Z—have come to expect a real conversation with those who represent their favorite brands. These students wonder: if my favorite shoe company can listen to my feedback on Twitter—and then respond with a coupon or discount— why can’t colleges have a real conversation with me on social media that is remembered throughout the enrollment process?
Eduventures research has found that prospective students engage most with social media content when it is shared by currently enrolled students and gives honest perspectives on the student experience. In fact, students engage with this type of content nearly twice as often as other types of content shared by colleges.
This finding shows that merely posting university website content on Facebook and Twitter is insufficient. Our Summit panel “The Potential of Social Media” noted that colleges and universities are only now starting to maximize their use of social media management tools by sharing authentic stories and experiences through the channels that prospects, students, and alumni view the most. These tools see better adoption rates when they are fully integrated with CRM platforms.
3. The Ingredients for Achieving Student Success
Source: Eduventures Insight Report, Improving Student Success: Is Your Institution Really Ready? (2016).
Three effective student success leaders took to the stage in our session, “Changing Demographics and Strategies for Student Success,” to share how their institutions have made it to the top of Eduventures’ 2016 Student Success Ratings. While each school—University of South Florida (USF), the SUNY System, and Saint Joseph’s College of Maine—have very different institutional circumstances, all outperformed their projected student success metrics according to our predictive model.
What makes them successful? Each incorporated all six elements (see Figure 3) of an effective student success culture, and the panelists especially highlighted the importance of the first two elements, “leadership and focus” and “collaborative control.”
- Leadership and Focus: Simply put, before an institution can act, it needs the imprimatur of leadership. For example, at USF the Provost put a stake in the ground about high failure rates. Tolerating them in gateway courses would no longer be unacceptable and, as a result, the faculty and administration came on board to make critical changes to improve the pedagogy and support in those courses. That takes real leadership skills and institutional focus.
- Collaborative Control: Even with leadership and institutional focus, though, many institutions can flounder without creating the necessary collaborative environment to articulate goals and make progress. While many colleges and universities would say that they collaborate on student success, far fewer have actual “collaborative control”—the structures, guiding documents, information sharing, and accountability necessary to make consistent, deliberative progress.
4. Understanding the Demand for “Convenience” in Online Programs
Source: Eduventures Adult Learner Survey, (2016).
When evaluating their graduate program portfolios, clients frequently ask us if they should move a current on-campus program online. As we discussed during our session “Strategic Recruiting and Programming for the Next Generation of Educators,” institutions should consider many factors, including their audience, when making this determination.
Convenience does play a role in the choices many adult students (age 25+) make about where to study. Research from our 2016 Adult Learner Survey charts this population’s interest in fully online program (see Figure 4). More specifically, it shows the difference between the general population of adult learners and those interested in studying education fields, with instructive revelations:
- The definition of “convenience.” Notice that for both the full sample and those interested in studying education, no more than half of students are interested in a fully online program. Generally, less than 40% want to study in this format. Convenience, then, does not necessarily mean 100% online offerings. Instead, institutions should design hybrid experiences to enable student success in a given program.
- Age matters. 54% of 25-34- year-olds want to complete a fully online program, while only 32% of all adults are interested in a fully online degree. One might logically conjecture that early career educators who need credits and degrees to advance in their professions or maintain licensure while balancing work and family responsibilities are primarily looking for convenience in a degree program. This example demonstrates that institutions looking to move online should consider their audience carefully.
Eduventures’ research further reveals that the need for online programming varies by area of study. Ultimately, students want to be successful, and it will be up to institutions to meet student needs while facilitating their success.
5. Connecting Data Silos is Required, Yet Insufficient to Retain Students
Source: Eduventures Retention Technology Spending Survey, 2016
One of the principal reasons that institutions pursue an enterprise CRM is to tie together academic outcomes data from multiple departments. These systems promise to collect all the actions of faculty, advisors, staff, and administrators to better serve the needs of students and gain a comprehensive view of all students and alumni.
According to our panel, “CRM Across the Student Lifecycle: Enterprise vs. Best of Breed,” this comprehensive view of data is certainly a required step in enterprise CRM adoption, but it is woefully insufficient to meet the needs of students for personalized learning and support services, such as academic advising. Eduventures research (see Figure 5) shows that once an institution has tied together its data silos, access to this data is mostly used by senior administrators, even more than by student advisors for academic and support purposes. What’s more, students themselves rarely get access to this data.
While institutions are certainly getting better at aggregating data on students and putting it in the hands of faculty and staff, they are not truly meeting their own goals of improving student outcomes. Like the adoption of social media management tools to improve student engagement, enterprise CRM begins to shine when it is used to foster two-way communication between students, faculty, and advisors.
For those who attended Summit, session slide presentations are available and posted in our Research Library. Videos of the presentations will be available soon. Eduventures clients who want to discuss any of the topics covered here in greater depth are encouraged to schedule an advising session with one of our analysts.