During the pandemic, many institutions of higher education are experiencing a decrease in student enrollment due to a variety of factors, including financial and overall uncertainty. The utilization of data science and marketing to nudge students to enrollment, to be retained, or to finish strong is vital during these times.
It is more important now than ever to collaborate with various departments (remotely) in order to yield high percentages of success rates with little to no cost to the institution. The former and certainly pre-COVID 19 methods of recruiting and retaining students have absorbed department budgets with a minimal return on investment. Organizations like Amazon and Netflix understand this concept and have grossly benefited from the use of data science. It is time for higher education to begin using similar methods to increase students attending and graduating from college.
Through the maximization of technology, we launched a Netflix-type campaign utilizing data science. The idea spurred from the famous Netflix statement “because you watched…” For our purposes, the statement was edited to “because you completed an online course.” A cluster analysis was conducted to identify which online courses students were enrolled. Then, students who had enrolled in online courses that semester were identified. There were 620 students who completed online courses with a grade of a “C” or better and had not registered the upcoming semester.
Then, a three-pronged campaign was launched in collaboration with the Office of Marketing and Communications. Student were nudged utilizing three separate technological modalities.
First, students were sent an email to their personal and college accounts with a custom and engaging tweak to spur similar interest as the Netflix logo. This image was prominently displayed a top the eight online courses students were more likely to be enrolled.
Second, students were sent a push notification using the college mobile application they were asked to download during new student orientation with the same logo and messaging. Third, when students logged in to the college student portal, a notification with the same logo appeared on their screen with a link to register for courses.
Each of these efforts were coordinated over a period of three weeks, except for the portal notification which continued throughout the registration period. Neither of these efforts added a cost to the institution. That said, the yield rate was 34% (209 students) enrolled in an online course that semester. The financial impact to the institution was $836,000.These regularly launched campaigns added a5% increase with an average enrolled of 16,000 students. Again, at no additional cost to the institution.
The success of these campaigns hinges on the interdepartmental collaboration for an institution and cultivating a strong relationship with key stakeholders and marketing staff.
Our data teams collaborating with marketing staff have led the efforts to improve student success and the development of digital marketing intelligence centers. These are sophisticated “creative suites” with large display screens – similar to a small network operations center – that enable students, faculty and staff to monitor the college’s social media channels, digital marketing campaigns and website tracking and data. The graphic displays summarize digital content and convey sentiment, brand exposure, trend information, geolocation data and more.
For the marketing team, information gained from the centralized data centers enables staff to:
• Launch targeted campaigns to current and potential students based on such things as demographics, GPA, living radius to campus and likelihood to persist.
• Identify target populations and send short, personal nudges via the colleges’ mobile application push notification system, the college online portal, social media channels, Google Ads, text, email and phone calls.
• Pinpoint at-risk students hiding in plain sight and develop personalized messaging that is timely, accurate and actionable.
For the data teams, information from the data centers enables them to monitor opportunities to improve services, intervene when students have challenges, and encourage students to take advantage of various services like tutoring, financial aid and registration assistance.
There is certainly more progress to be made, but the data supports our efforts moving forward, and allows us to gain more champions along the way.