How Data Can Enhance Retention for Higher Ed

By: Nicole Hagel Apr 08, 2021

How Data Can Enhance Retention for Higher Ed

If you’re looking for ways to improve student retention, data is a powerful place to start. Data can help you establish an effective communication strategy that keeps students engaged. With data, you can proactively reach out to students who might be at risk of stopping out. Linking different data streams can help you customize your approach to help every student feel supported. Before you overhaul your student retention strategy, look at the data.

What kind of data helps with retention

Two broad categories of data can support your retention efforts: demographics and behavioral data. Demographic data helps you identify broad groups of students that might need more support to complete their program.

For example, someone who has been away from school for years is less likely to persist than someone who goes directly from high school to college. Work, finances, and family issues can get in the way. Broad observations like this can help you set your cadence for how often you reach out and even determine what resources or tools you might want to mention. But they’re approximations.

To improve persistence, you need behavioral data as well. Commonly tracked behavioral indicators include: class attendance, late or missed assignments, and the frequency of student interactions with faculty or support staff. When these behaviors change, they can trigger a proactive intervention.

For example, you might reach out to a student who hasn’t logged into the LMS in a week and ask what has kept them away. Then you can provide targeted support or interventions to help that student overcome whatever is challenging them. Sometimes, just knowing someone is paying attention and cares about their progress is enough to help students get back on track.

Such proactive interventions enable you to catch students before they stop-out. Once someone has decided to pause their education, you’ll have a much harder time changing their mind. It’s better to catch them early and help them work through the challenge.

How to collect student data

You’re probably already collecting demographic data for IPEDS and other reporting requirements. To get the most out of demographics, you can create systems that link it with behavioral data. The combination will give you a clearer picture of the factors affecting each student. When behavioral and demographic data are linked, you can create contact strategies that work for students.

Machine learning can help you determine when and how to contact students for the best results. Email open rates, clicks, and responses are all valuable data points to inform your contact strategy.

By recording conversations or collecting notes from coaching calls, you can build a clear picture of the student, including their needs, goals, and challenges.

All of this data collection might sound like a lot to manage, but the setup really is the hardest part. Once the systems are in place, they can interact seamlessly with each other. That means your team can spend more time actually supporting students, and less time managing data.

People make it possible

Make no mistake, data alone is not enough. The real value comes from knowing what to do with it. For that, you need a team trained in gathering relevant information and using it effectively.

Data can help you spot a student who might be at risk of stopping-out, and provide one-on-one support. It can’t help that student feel like someone other than them cares about their education. It can’t help them overcome a crisis of confidence to enroll for the next semester. For all of those things, you need people.

Ideally, your retention strategy includes data collection, machine learning, and highly qualified success coaches who can provide direct student support. This kind of data-informed, high-touch service requires a team.

Ready to improve your retention rates and help more students succeed? Our student success coaching service leverages valuable data to identify at-risk students and provides professional support to help students along their journey to academic success. Contact the student success experts at EducationDynamics to learn how we can help you improve retention rates and keep more students on the path to graduation. From consideration to graduation, EducationDynamics is here to help.