Student Engagement

Higher Education Goes Digital, Deepening Student Engagement

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The current generation of digitally savvy students have been passively trained by years of social media, e-commerce and online entertainment to expect a high-level user experience in all their digital interactions, with no exception for their educational institutions.

In higher education, there are two categories relevant to digital transformation. The first relates to engagement, where what is known about a student is utilized to deliver relevant communications at the right time, in the right manner. Ideally that can be done across a number of channels, depending on the context, including chatbots, text messages, emails, mobile apps and more. The second category enables the first: a foundation of data where student information—gleaned through website clicks and visits, academic performance tracking as well as other sources—can be used to determine how and when that communication should occur.

A recent Forbes Insights executive brief, “Rising to the Challenge: Digital Transformation and Student Engagement in Higher Education,” sponsored by Pitney Bowes, touches on both categories and outlines practical examples of their application to improve the student experience.

Many educational institutions are now turning to customer experience firms to map the student journey and life cycle. That allows them to zero in on the moments when they can support student needs digitally by providing relevant information, and therefore deepen engagement. (Read More...)

Who Is Studying Online (and Where)

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The number of college students enrolled in at least one online course -- and the proportion of all enrolled students who are studying online -- continued to rise at U.S. institutions in the 2016 academic year, newly released federal data show.

The statistics, part of a major release of provisional data on enrollments, employment and other topics from the Education Department's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, provide the most up-to-date information on enrollments in online and distance education.

The overarching story is a familiar one: even as overall enrollment in postsecondary institutions stays flat (unlike recent numbers from the National Student Clearinghouse, the federal data show enrollments staying roughly constant, not declining), online enrollments climb.

As a result, so, too, does the proportion of all students at institutions eligible to award federal financial aid who are taking at least one course at a distance, as seen in the table below.

The increased likelihood of being enrolled online is occurring at most levels and types of institutions in higher education.

Since 2014, the proportion of undergraduate students at Title IV-eligible institutions who are enrolled in at least one distance education course has risen from 27.1 percent to 30 percent in 2016, and the proportion of graduate students enrolled at least partially online has grown from 32.5 percent to 36.6 percent in 2016.

Community college students (30.9 percent) were more likely than undergraduates at four-year public institutions (29 percent) and four-year private colleges (25.6 percent) to be enrolled in at least one online course.

But more than two-thirds of the students taking at least one online course in 2016 were at public institutions, while roughly 18 percent were at private nonprofit colleges and 13 percent were at for-profit institutions. And the growth in the number of students taking at least one online course in 2016 was greater among public institutions than it was for private institutions, a change in the pattern of recent years. (Read More...)

More Frequent, Intensive Advising Cranks up Student Engagement

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When Georgia State University added 42 academic advisers, it cost the institution an additional $2 million each year. However, reported Tim Renick, vice president for enrollment management and student success, the investment paid for itself, "because the increased retention rate meant more revenue for the school." Graduation rates there grew by more than 20 percentage points in just over a decade, including among students of color; now Black and Hispanic students graduate at rates comparable to or higher than those of White students.

Georgia State's story features in a new report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, as an example worth the attention of two-year schools. "If community colleges want to increase student engagement, one place to start is by examining the foundation of academic advising," said Evelyn Waiwaiole, executive director of the center.

To put data behind the impact of advising on retention and engagement, the center surveyed about 180,000 students at 297 colleges around the country. The survey was issued in paper form in the spring semester during class to students enrolled in randomly selected credit-bearing courses. (A parallel survey was given to 9,577 faculty at 86 colleges.) The final report, "Show Me the Way: The Power of Advising in Community Colleges," found that overall, students who get more time in advising with more in-depth discussions during their advising sessions are more engaged in community college.

Yet, the survey also found that the content of those advising sessions varies widely among students. While a majority of students (62 percent of first-termers and 78 percent of returning students) do meet with an adviser, most of those sessions are focused on figuring out what classes they need to take for their educational goals. While two-thirds (65 percent) also said advisers helped them create academic plans, just over half (53 percent) were also able to discuss their commitments outside of school. And most (65 percent) didn't discuss scheduling for a follow-up advising session. (Read More...)

The Ethos of the Overinvolved Parent

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Stacy G.’s daughter was having a meltdown. Her daughter, a sophomore at a prestigious private college, wanted an internship at Boston Children’s Hospital, a plum job that would look great on her applications to graduate school. After four weeks of frantically waiting for the school to arrange for an interview at the hospital, Stacy called her daughter’s adviser at the internships office to complain.

“For $65,000 [in full attendance costs], you can bet your sweet ass that I’m calling that school ... If your children aren’t getting what they’ve been promised, colleges are going to get that phone call from parents,” Stacy said. “It’s my money. It’s a lot of money. We did try to have her handle it on her own, but when it didn’t work out, I called them.”

Whether Stacy is representative of the majority of parents of students at four-year, selective colleges or a member of the dreaded “helicopter parents” club, there are enough parents like her to have spawned a small industry of self-helpbooks on the subject, research papers, and even a new cellphone app. Checking in with their children daily and occasionally contacting school administrators, a contingent of parents of students at these schools has stepped up its involvement levels in recent years, sources told me, because of technology, employment concerns, and the high price of college. And colleges themselves have responded by creating new channels to communicate with parents.

Laura Hamilton, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Merced, began studying a group of college women and their families back in 2004, embedding herself in the dormitory of a midwestern college and later writing about her qualitative research in two books, Paying for the Party and Parenting to a Degree. As Hamilton explained in a 2016 Atlantic article adapted from the latter book, involvement by the parents varied. Some parents, often those without college experience themselves, had a hands-off approach to their kids’ higher education, while other parents were more involved. Among the most highly involved parents, some helped their kids navigate the school bureaucracy so they could later enter into graduate programs or a solid entry-level job requiring a degree. Others were highly involved with their daughters’ social lives, assuring that they were well-positioned to find wealthy husbands. “The Mrs. degree is alive and well,” Hamilton told me. (Read More...)

Why we need to know more, not less, about what students get from college

By Mark Schneider of Hechinger Report

The federal government, in concert with the states and institutions, could do more to increase transparency and enhance market accountability in higher education.

More effectively reporting data that it already collects and collecting better data on cost, quality and value would provide a number of benefits.

Students could use the information to avoid investing in schools or programs that do not provide a positive return on investment and to discover options that they may have eliminated on the basis of incomplete or faulty information.

Researchers and policymakers could more readily judge where investments in federal aid are paying off and where reforms could improve efficiency and reduce waste. Private firms could use data to come up with rankings and ratings to reflect the unique preferences of different students.

Private lenders and funders could use labor-market outcome data to improve underwriting and extend credit on the basis of a student’s potential rather than the student’s past experience with credit products. 

Perhaps the most visible attempt to rewrite the federal role was the Obama administration’s failed attempt to build a Postsecondary Institutional Rating System (PIRS).  In 2013, the White House decided that the nation needed a rating system that would evaluate the approximately 7,000 post-secondary institutions that participate in federal student-aid programs. (Read More...)

Unlocking educational silos yields a wealth of data to help students succeed

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Authored by Nelson Williams 

Silicon Angle

Colleges, universities and other centers of higher education collect a lot of information about their students. That data then disappears into legacy systems and custom applications. Breaking those silos can bring out the real power of that data and enable institutions to take intelligent action to guide students through their educational journey, according to Jeff Ralyea, senior vice president and general manager of cloud at Ellucian Inc.

“Ellucian has a sole focus on higher education. It’s really the only industry we serve,” Ralyea said, during the AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington, D.C.

Ralyea spoke with John Furrier (@furrier) and John Walls (@JohnWalls21), co-hosts of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE’s mobile live-streaming studio, about the importance of unlocking data and using insights. (* Disclosure below.)

Guiding students to data-driven success

Ellucian comes to educational organizations from an enterprise software perspective. It finds its bread and butter in the student systems, although the company does serve other areas. In particular, Ellucian runs systems that help students achieve success. Registration and recruitment make up just two examples for a suite of software that helps drive this outcome, Ralyea explained.

Likewise, unlocking the data in higher education is a really big deal. Systems that have lived on campus for decades hold all sorts of information about students. To tap this well, Ellucian built a platform, Ethos, that uses a new data model that sits above all the original systems. Then, they set this platform to run “role-based analytics” to discover new insights about the students, Ralyea stated. (Read More...)

How to Cold Call Your Future Mentor

Getting that first meeting with an in-demand executive or potential mentor can change the course of a person’s career. But how do you break through with someone you’ve never met before? PHOTO: ISTOCK

Getting that first meeting with an in-demand executive or potential mentor can change the course of a person’s career. But how do you break through with someone you’ve never met before? PHOTO: ISTOCK

Getting a meeting with an influential person you admire actually could change your life, by opening doors and providing inspiration or advice.

But how do you connect with a total stranger who is in demand and make that person want to meet with you? Pulling off the career equivalent of a moon landing requires a first contact that is pitch-perfect: the perfect subject line, a winning introduction, a request that isn’t too big or vague, and—a subtle touch that’s often overlooked—a hint of what you can offer in return.

Most people reach out by email, and these emails are often swiftly deleted, experts and executives say. Often, the sender is asking for too much time—even an hour is usually too long—or too much commitment, such as saying outright, “Will you help me get a job?” Unfocused requests for pointless conversations, such as asking about the recipient’s accomplishments or background, also tend to land straight in the trash.

That first email should show that the sender is well informed and prepared for a purposeful discussion. Give a succinct summary of who you are, what you want to accomplish, what you are asking for and if possible, something you can offer.  (Read More...)

Leapfrogging in higher ed

Authored by Hunt Lambert, Dean of Continuing Education at Harvard University

In the late 1980s, China’s growing economy demanded connectivity as it struggled to reach the United States’ 90 percent household telephone penetration rate. As it turned out, wiring China was a physical and economic impossibility: social and technological realities stood in stark opposition to large-scale needs.

And yet, in just a few short years, China’s telecommunications progress came to define what we now describe as “leapfrogging” — pioneering the application of new technologies to bypass the older framework in place to unlock their 1.5 billion citizens’ economic potential.

Today, higher education faces a similar dilemma. Against a backdrop of upcredentialing, the imperative for degree completion has never been greater. And yet, former President Obama’s call for the United States to lead the world in college completion by 2020 remains a distant possibility.

No public or private entities in the world have the money to build the campuses — let alone develop the quality faculty — needed to produce the billions of college graduates our global economy demands. MOOCs have failed to live up to their democratic promise of access, completion or meaningful learning outcomes. And even if higher education as we know it could scale over time, consumer preferences are evolving even faster. In an uncertain economy, many students are increasingly skeptical that degrees are a worthwhile investment of time and money.

Should we throw in the towel? Or, is higher education poised for a revolution on par with the telecom explosion of the past two decades?

Here’s what we know: The degree is still the coin of the realm in our information economy, but there is unprecedented demand for — and recognition of — non-degree credentials. Indeed, 41 million adults currently hold some form of non-degree credential, and there is growing acknowledgment that tomorrow’s students, dubbed “the new normal” by former U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, will demand a mix of non-traditional programs and partnerships providing learning opportunities across a work life that is likely to span 60 years or more. (Read More...)

The 5 Biggest Higher Education Tech Trends in 2016

Authored by Meghan Bogardus Cortez

EdTech

This year was ripe for higher ed innovation. Just take a look at coverage from EDUCAUSE, which highlights the trends that have flourished in 2016. Colleges across the country have transformed learning spaces, advanced their libraries technologically, and bolstered campus security.

Along with increases in cloud adoption, the rise of virtual reality and stronger cybersecurity programs, here’s a look back at the biggest higher ed tech trends of 2016.

1. Understanding the Power of Data

This year, data has been a huge factor for a lot of industries, higher education included. Tech decision-makers on a number of campuses have started to examine where data might fit into daily operations.

Data has also powered some significant positive changes across campuses. At Middle Tennessee State Universitypredictive analytics fueled by student data have helped advisors to bring their retention rate up to 95 percent.

University of Maryland University College has made analytics an integral part of their operations, and because of it they could reduce marketing spending by 20 percent.

It turns out students actually don’t mind that universities are collecting more information on them than ever before. Ninety-eight percent of student respondents to an Ellucian survey said they want their schools to use their personal information to improve the overall college experience.

A KPMG survey found that 41 percent of universities were using data for forecasting and predictive analytics. This number is only expected to rise next year, with EDUCAUSE naming data-informed decision-making and predictive analytics to improve student success to their 2017 Top IT Issues list. (Read More...)

Students Want Their Personal Data to be Used to Improve the College Experience, Survey Says

Authored by Meghan Bogardus Cortez

EdTech

 

Using student data to inform educational decisions has been a hot topic over the past few years. Predictive analytics to improve student success, along with data-informed decision-making, were named by EDUCAUSE as two of their top 10 IT issues for 2017. And, as one study indicates, students don’t mind when their colleges track them.

A whopping 98 percent of respondents to an Ellucian survey conducted by Wakefield Research said they want their schools to use their personal data to create an optimized college experience. Also, a majority of the 1,000 U.S. college students who took the survey believe their schools can create this positive change in the next 10 years.

The students surveyed have a laundry list of improvements they want their schools to make: make it easier to track graduation requirements, assist in joining student organizations, aid in course selection and registration. The good news, however, is some universities are already making strides to do exactly what these students want.

Data Helps Boost Retention and Streamline Advising

In the Ellucian survey, 62 percent of students said they wanted their university to improve academic processes like tracking graduation progress and 53 percent wanted to see an improvement in the system for scheduling advising sessions.

EdTech reported on Middle Tennessee State University, which used predictive analytics to create a new-school method of advising: students deemed “at risk” of not graduating received targeted interventions.

But perhaps one of the first to use predictive analytics was the University of Kentucky. UK partnered with Dell back in 2012 to deploy an SAP platform to analyze and predict student graduation likelihoodCampus Technology reports.

“One problem we wanted to address was how to immediately affect student success in the short term,” says Vince Kellen, UK’s senior vice provost for academic planning, analytics, and technologies in a 2014 Dell video.

“Part of our predictive model was to look at students who weren’t exactly hopeless cases, but they weren’t sure bets. Students that had a 50 percent probability of returning. We did some direct work and saw a 66 percent re-enrollment rate.”