Is your college using big data to track your students?

A few weeks ago we found ourselves in the fortuitous position of being at the Ruffalo Noel Levitz conference in Boston listening to a very interesting talk given by Alan Etkin, Senior Analyst with British Columbia Institute of Technology titled “Using Web Analytics to Connect Marketing, Web Behavior, and Conversions”. The premise of the presentation was that all colleges and universities with an analytics platform have the ability to  track how many visitors come to their sites, how many visits there are to a particular page and how many students apply to each program.

It seems simple right? But how many colleges can and are connecting those all-important dots between the online journey prospective students take? This includes the recruitment stage to filling out an application form and actually registering for classes. The British Columbia Institute of Technology can (or so we're told)! Etkin explained how through using Google Analytics in Banner Admissions they were able to track the journey of users from recruitment to enrollment. In simple terms, through the data they linked together, they were able to understand which campaigns and channels are bringing the best ROAS. Ultimately, they are hoping to predict which specific students will journey through the entire process to enrollment. Ok, we're suitably impressed. 

This presentation really got us thinking about the potential for every college to use big data to identify key behaviors in the user’s web journey. For instance, big data tells us that how and when students interact with a university website informs how likely they are to enroll.  Students who show the most interest and interact the most (through forms, requests for information, emails) are understandably more likely to enroll in your institution than someone who visits once and only interacts with the homepage. Other colleges are also using data to predict which students will do well before they even accept them.  We're even more impressed. 

Assigning a value to each applicant ultimately allows you to discover the worth of each website visit. In his talk, Etkin talked about how discovering what percentage of applicants become students and by giving each student a value (i.e. their annual revenue) you can uncover the exact value of each application to your website.  What’s the benefit of this kind of data? Well, being able to put a definite figure beside a web visit, application request or form submission is a marketer’s dream, isn’t it?

We want to know what clever ways your university is using big data, do you know the exact ratio of applications to enrollments? Do you know which students are most likely to apply and which students are the best fit for your institution? Let us know in the comments below.