Brian A Haugabrook, CIO, Valdosta State University
The return on investment (ROI) of a college degree often goes beyond the statistics of a report on average income by education level. The impact a degree can have on a student’s family and community is not easily quantified. This is especially true for first-generation college students. At college graduation ceremonies you can often identify the first-generation graduates by the loud and passionate screams of the families. Being the first to graduate in your family opens the door for others to follow and encourages individuals to dream even bigger. Witnessing this moment is one of the greatest reasons to work in and support higher education. Unfortunately, there are too many students who start their higher education journey but never finish. This unfinished path always leads to a negative ROI and thousands of dollars in debt. A once hopeful individual, and family, must now face a different reality and a cycle that is difficult to break.
To address this issue, colleges and universities are pursing improved methods and solutions for using data including predictive analytics, business intelligence, artificial intelligence and technology solutions for providing proactive interventions. This is a major challenge for universities as the technologies and tools available are not usually designed for higher education. Viewing demos of the leading business intelligence technologies often show dashboards about sales statistics across product lines and regions of the country. Solutions that are tailored for higher education often focus on one resource, typically the student information system (SIS). Although the SIS is an important resource, it does not address the non-academic and engagement barriers some students will encounter during their academic journey. To solve this challenge, universities are becoming more innovative in incorporating various technologies and platforms to attract, engage, personalize, and support students of all backgrounds.
The complexities of data management in education is different from most industries although similar principles and techniques can be applied.
Colleges and universities are pursing improved methods and solutions for using data including predictive analytics, business intelligence, artificial intelligence and technology solutions for providing proactive intervention
Instead of measuring sales, we measure student outcomes, often in the form of degrees conferred. Although both are quantifiable, obtaining a degree is a journey with many barriers along the way. These barriers can be academic, financial, medical, engagement, personal, and often a combination of many. Every student is unique and identifying the opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom is essential to giving the best chance to walk across the stage at a graduation ceremony.
Business intelligence and analytical solutions provide the insights to provide personalized communications and early interventions for students. This approach has helped improve the success rates of many student populations across the country. This will further enhance the ability to personalize, support, and engage students. The college journey is more than a sale, service, or moment in time. Most students live on campus or nearby for four years of their life. Each day every individual is generating thousands of data points and interacting with numerous individuals. Student engagement in activities, events, clubs, sports, intramurals, research, internships, and other practices increase the success rate of students.
How does higher education accomplish the difficult task of continuous student success improvements? Analytics and technology play a major support role in succeeding. Predictive algorithms are now being used at hundreds of universities to identify students who may face barriers when taking difficult courses such as English and Math. State university systems are developing solutions at scale to support all ranges of institutions from small colleges to large universities. Having a statistic about success rates is just one of many steps required. Advisors and faculty utilize solutions that provide an interactive experience to view data, automate workflows, and provide case management to ensure services are delivered proactively. Analytics also connects students with the right individual(s) on a campus. Recent innovations implementing artificial intelligence are beginning to get adopted in higher education. artificial intelligence (AI) extends our ability to make data actionable while providing an improved and consistent customer server experience. AI integrated with our analytical platforms provide the mechanism to deliver expert level experiences 24/7.
Success in higher education for some students resulted from the inspiration and support from a staff or faculty member who encouraged them or believed in their ability to succeed. Many of us can remember that pivotal moment or individual that made an impact in our lives. Analytics provides the insights needed to increase the likelihood more students will make this connection, find their passion, and get the inspiration to make a difference in the world. The increased adoption and innovations with business intelligence, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence will make great strides in improving student success over the next decade. The success of higher education will result in greater success of the industries and companies that depend on college graduates. The greatest reward is the life-changing experience that will benefit the graduate’s family, community, and future generations.