How University Admins are Using Big Data to Make Big Decisions

EpsonJune 22, 2018

From admissions and recruiting to student success and financial planning, big data is helping higher education administrators make better decisions about the types of students they enroll, and the best ways to support them once they are there. The ultimate goal is to improve retention and graduation rates so that the school can operate more efficiently.

In order to make such data-driven decisions, though, colleges and universities are turning to tech platforms and presentation tools so that everyone has access to the most meaningful insights.

Here’s a look at some of the ways in which schools are  leveraging big data and new technologies to meet high level campus goals.

Rethinking recruitment target areas

In the past, college admissions recruiters used to have a list of high schools and communities that they would visit to try to recruit students. It was largely based on which geographic areas traditionally had the most students apply and enroll.

As data analytics have improved, teams are able to  derive deeper insight and value. Recruiters can now discover other pockets of interest by analyzing how prospective students interact with the school online and on social media.

The ability to track, analyze, and share reports  with this data allows recruiters to focus on students as they never did in the past. Higher education marketing teams can also use data to determine which messaging is resonating best, and to customize outreach based on where students are in their decision making process.

Using analytics to predict student success

Many colleges and universities are beginning to dabble with predictive modeling scores, which rate the likelihood that a student will retain and graduate. Using academic performance analytics and even social data, like how many times a student swipes his or her card to go to the library, schools can intervene earlier to help those who show signs of struggling.

With limited resources and personnel, it’s important that higher ed counselors and other support staff know which students need their help the most. For instance, which behaviors are likely to predict that a student is ready to drop a class? Or what can a freshman survey tell you about the relationship between joining clubs on campus and academic success?

Noticing such patterns and trends and being able to act on it by sharing that insight with the right people in the right way is key. Providing regular reporting to the academic colleges and and establishing a medium for everyone to share input and brainstorm the appropriate action can really benefit students.

Making better financial decisions

Soon the days of emailing around spreadsheets will be a thing of the past. Today’s finance teams in higher ed are beginning to transition to cloud-based financial software that helps with budgeting and forecasting.

In fact, according to the Kaufman Hall’s 2017 Higher Education Survey, 90% of respondents said that having more insightful data about their institution’s performance would result in better financial decisions.

As such, more schools are gradually beginning to invest in data platforms that are able to explore a variety of scenarios, such as financial implications of low application rates. And, meeting attendees can even input different variables to visualize projected outcomes in real time.

How to Create a Culture of Data on Your Campus

In order to incorporate big data into your team’s decision-making process, here are some tips to make it work:

1. Make the data digestible.

No matter which technologies higher education institutions invest in, it’s important that data analysis isn’t done in a silo. More and more, college administrators are investing in big data platforms—and a modern projection solution can offer big benefits in the way of sharing those insights. The biggest value being that key stakeholders have access to tools to help them better understand the data that’s available, and having the ability to then pull reports about the most relevant data points when the time comes to create a plan of action.

2. Encourage others to contribute reports and ideas.

In the past, it would be typical for administrators who ran meetings to pass out packets of hard-to-decipher raw data, and then go through it page by page. Presentation technology enables meetings to be much more collaborative and efficient. The ability to screen share  dashboards, graphs, and reports can allow people to make contributions in real-time, rather than having to follow up with an email chain after the meeting. And with certain meeting room technology, like interactive displays, teams can even mark up documents and brainstorm using the interactive whiteboard-style set up.

3. Provide training and anticipate a learning curve.

Because not everyone is analytical or data-driven by nature, creating a culture of data requires time, training, and access to the right tools. Technology that is user-friendly, intuitive, and helps people do their jobs more efficiently makes it easier for teams to make the shift. But you also need a few leaders to champion the technology, and prove that the data you’re working with is reliable and insightful. 

Offering a product demonstration and training whenever you purchase new equipment or software can give people a chance to get up to speed. Also, illustrate how a specific data finding fueled a change that led to improved results. Once people can see the value in doing things in integrating richer data and insights into their work, they will be motivated to come on board.

With so many decisions that go on behind the scenes of a college’s operations, it’s important to have as many tools in your arsenal as possible. Investing in the right data analytics and presentation tools can go a long way toward improving outcomes.

Learn more about Epson’s interactive display solutions.