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How Higher Ed is Using Data to Retain Students & Staff

Many institutions are now turning to data to address challenges in education like the 2.7% decrease in enrollment rates. Schools like Penn State University are placing greater value in data to collect information, using it to confront these issues along with other sources of concern like campus life and course engagement.

There’s been a 66% increase in data requests by education leaders, with more institutions turning to data to better understand the challenges and factors which play in in driving student and employee success. Data is now becoming a key asset in education, providing leaders with greater insight as they make decisions on what solutions are needed to respond to current student and faculty challenges.

Data points relevant to educational institutions

Data is being collected to inform leaders’ decisions on crucial policies, helping them flag important issues and use metrics to act on them more effectively. Information from online courses, teaching and learning activities and feedback reports can all be used to research and raise awareness around issues affecting those in your community, including students, faculty and staff. Educators who aren’t tracking the following metrics are putting themselves at a disadvantage:

  • Student Data: Student demographics like age and gender, full-time or part-time status, whether learners are taking the majority of classes in-person, in hybrid settings or online, video completion rates, site visits and more
  • Academic Data: Enrollment rates, final semester grades and graduation rates by institution, program and major
  • Staff and Faculty Data: Employee demographics by age, ethnicity and additional factors, salaries across different roles and staff productivity levels

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Drawing on data to improve student success & retention

These are some of the ways that university and college leaders are tapping into data to inform policy decisions and response protocols to address student engagement and retention:

  • Collecting Data Through Student Surveys: Leaders at the University of Connecticut designed a 60-second survey that students must periodically fill out when logging into the campus’ application Nexus. University leaders are using this data to keep better track of student performance and satisfaction levels, as well as identify those who are at risk, stressed or struggling to keep up. “If students say, ‘I’m thinking about leaving,’ we provide targeted outreach to those students,” the university’s Vice Provost of Academic Success reported to EdTech. “If students haven’t found a community, we tell them, ‘Here are groups you can connect to’ or ‘Here are a couple of ideas you may consider.’”
  • Improving Classroom Engagement: Data is also being used to address students’ learning and engagement needs. Teachers in schools with data-focused programs report that having access to data improves instruction significantly. Leaders who are monitoring this data are using it to track classroom engagement and provide struggling students with the tools they need to succeed. “With the right data and software program, institutions can set up an alert system that notifies a student’s advisor if they are failing their classes,” North Carolina State University professor Stephen Porter reported to Precision Campus. “The advisor can then intervene and try to find a solution, which is a much more proactive approach compared to just letting a student fall through the cracks.”
  • Tracking Course Delivery and Availability: Other schools like Santa Barbara City College are using data analytics to keep track of their course availability. The data they are gathering is helping them keep a record of the number of classes as well as the dates and times they are held. This tracking has allowed the college to identify and grow its number of evening classes which help accommodate students who are unable to learn on a traditional schedule, such as part-time learners and those with additional commitments like employment or childcare.

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Putting data into action to support faculty & staff

Leaders and hiring professionals from schools are also leveraging data to address employee needs and implement processes that better attract new candidates. They’re using data to support faculty and staff in these ways:

  • Attracting New Candidates with Salary Data: Leaders at the University of Texas at Austin are employing data in commendable ways, using it to provide hiring managers with useful information about salaries, helping them better engage the 74% of candidates who actively look for salary information in job postings. The data from this type of research has helped institutions’ hiring professionals offer interested candidates more attractive, fair and competitive salaries. Other schools like the University of Virginia are also adding captioning to their video interviews to better attract and include potential candidates with disabilities, including those who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Sourcing Intel on Employee Needs: School leaders at the University of California source intel to improve and address employee needs via annual Employee Engagement Surveys. Engaging faculty and staff with surveys like these have been shown to increase employee productivity by 38%.
  • Addressing Employee Retention: At UC, leaders also made use of data from their surveys to look into decreasing retention rates among employees. Their 2021 report revealed a decline in retention rates in 2021, which allowed them to develop a plan to address the highest areas of employee dissatisfaction promptly.
  • Improving Faculty Meetings, Trainings and Videos: Data is also being used by leaders to track engagement levels and facilitate more effective meetings between staff and faculty. To improve meeting and video communications, schools are using captioning to deliver accessibility not just to students but to staff and faculty members too. Boston University is one school that is adding captioning to its video, including for content like employee training videos. The transcripts from captions are useful for record-keeping purposes and help staff and faculty better engage with video as captions lead to longer watch times. Plus, adding captioning to video is helping leaders increase the searchability of their video content. Video alone isn’t crawlable by search engine bots, but transcripts are. Adding them to public video is helping leaders increase their school’s website SEO to attract more viewers who are searching for them online.

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Take advantage of data to make informed decisions

Institutions that are investing time in sourcing and collecting information are greatly benefiting from data analysis, helping them make smarter decisions that deliver actionable change for their schools and community. As leaders use data to become more aware of issues in education, the next best step in harnessing that data is to start making use of technologies that can help address enrollment and engagement challenges.

Automatic Sync Technologies (AST) is one provider that is offering technologies like captioning and transcription which are helping schools like the University of Arizona, George Washington University and Princeton University offer interactive and engaging experiences that help retain more students, faculty and staff. Contact us to learn more about how our technologies can help support your school’s retention efforts.

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