August 3, 2022

Data-driven connections in a post-pandemic world

Reflections on the Recruitment, Enrollment and Student Success track at Anthology Together ’22.

Set against the backdrop of Anthology’s commitment to Intelligent Experiences, the Recruitment, Enrollment and Student Success track at Anthology Together ’22 explored opportunities for data and innovation to drive better outcomes for students. A huge thanks to all of you who participated for your energy and expertise over the three days. We have begun posting presentations, recordings and other resources from AT22 in our Anthology Together group database on the Community Site if you wish to review. If you are not yet a part of the Anthology Community, you can register to join!

Whether you were able to join us in Orlando or not, there are some important lessons that came from the sessions to inform how institutions can support students in a (hopefully) post-pandemic world. Here are 5 takeaways and trends that you should be aware of.

Connection is crucial:

Forgive the pun, but it was fantastic to be back together. Having so many higher education leaders all in one place created an atmosphere of collaboration that is difficult to achieve virtually, and attendees were clearly energized to have the chance to connect. As Doug Lederman from Inside Higher Ed commented in a discussion on boosting recruitment, “it’s really great to be back among three dimensional human beings!”

Students are also craving connection. Throughout our live student panel, hosted by VP of Student Success Richa Batra, the students regularly referred to important connections with institution staff which had helped them to survive the pandemic – be that with faculty, advisors, counselors or others.

Moving forward, accurate management and usage of data provides institutions the opportunity to build connection at scale and create an environment where students feel that their college understands them, not just their favorite members of staff.

“Flexible” and “Online” aren’t perfect synonyms:

Since the sudden, pandemic-driven shift to remote learning two years ago, the terms “flexible” and “online” learning have been used so interchangeably that it can be easy to think they mean the same thing – and that further adoption of online learning is the only way to meet modern students’ demands.

The data indicates otherwise. Our national survey of students from earlier this year shows that many students still prefer to have in-person elements to their studies, combining the connection mentioned above with the benefits of virtual learning. In speaking to students an additional level of nuance emerges, with learners finding that their preferred modality changes not just with events in their life but even the subject area.

Flexibility means just that – providing students the ability to choose, from course delivery, to credentials, career pathways and much more. Dr Justin Louder, Associate Provost at Texas Tech University, provided a fantastic example of this in a panel discussion on boosting recruitment. Trying to compete in a crowded MBA market, Texas Tech has begun to offer online classes through the week and fully-catered, community-based, in-person classes on weekends – a perfect combination for working professionals that is getting great traction in market.

Workforce preparation is essential across the full student lifecycle:

Not surprisingly, job opportunities remain overwhelmingly the main inspiration for starting a degree. This has clear implications for marketing and recruitment, as showing a direct link between your programs and future career prosperity is one of the most effective ways to stand out in the market.

It’s also important to maintain this focus post-enrollment. When students lose sight of the end goal, or don’t feel that their degree is moving them closer toward it, persistence will inevitably drop – particularly if coupled with other challenges such as finances. Alternative credentials, workforce pathways and industry partnerships can all be invaluable to keep students engaged through to graduation.

Dr Anna Porcaro, Executive Director of Online Learning at Wichita State University, informed a panel on boosting recruitment of how they have explored alternative credentials as a way of aligning with industry sectors and helping to address a critical shortage of teachers in their local area.

External partnerships can strengthen internal relationships:

It’s a story as old as universities themselves – different departments within institutions often have different goals and ways of working, making it hard to collaborate and create a seamless student journey. The latest chapter is the challenge of disparate data, and across the three days of AT22 countless institutions told us how difficult it is to maintain a single, aligned, and actionable approach to data across the institution.

As well as offering additional efficiency and improved services for your students, external partnerships can also help with these internal challenges. The team from Oklahoma Central University took the stage in Orlando to present a fantastic case study on how working with Anthology has improved the synergy between their IT and Student Services teams, creating a common view of success and ways to measure it.

Looking to the future, there is the possibility to genuinely expand this across the full institution. At Anthology, we have Student Success Scoring Models that can be employed across several of our solutions to provide a consistent view of student success. At AT22, we also spoke about the importance of zero- and first-party data to fuel enrollment marketing – and how making LMS, SIS and other first-party data available to build lookalike audiences will be crucial to success moving forward.

Student support is growing in complexity:

As student demographics and learning modalities change, an inevitable consequence is that the breadth and complexity of support they require is going to grow. Supporting students now includes much more than just facilitating their academic journey through the institution.

Across the three days of AT22 we heard heroic stories from institutions of how they are supporting their students. Community college leaders spoke about setting up food pantries and partnerships with local health providers, HBCU institutions detailed how they have embraced the social justice movement to grow enrollment during the pandemic, while Dr Anna Porcaro from Wichita State advised on the importance of childcare services for their growing cohort of adult learners.

Again, accurate collection and maintenance of data is vital to identify the challenges that students face and how they can be addressed. As Jason Smith, our Senior Director of Student Success, outlined in a presentation about Stopping Student Stop-Outs, re-engaging stop-out students is important not only because it gives you the opportunity to welcome them back, but also to learn why they left and prevent others from taking a similar path.

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