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Support a Data-Driven Student Retention Program

Student success is institutional success.

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Student success and retention is becoming increasingly important as competition for students increases and students’ expectations rise.

IT needs to be aware of the approach taken by the institution in order to:

  • support systems integration
  • implement and perhaps build needed systems
  • ensure the institution can support data quality standards
  • Our Advice

    Critical Insight

    Institutional culture is key to effective retention. Faculty, staff, and advisors must recognize the value of consistently and accurately recording key information. Only through accurate information can leaders ask the right questions of the data to guide strategy and deliver value.

    Impact and Result

    • Clarity of the retention challenge from different stakeholder perspectives.
    • An assessment of the institution’s current state of advising technology and data related to student retention.
    • Clarity on how IT can provide value to the institution through student journey-mapping.

    Support a Data-Driven Student Retention Program Research & Tools

    1. Support a Data-Driven Student Retention Program Storyboard – A step-by-step document that walks you through how to identify retention issues and provide the technology support to help achieve retention targets.

    To support student retention, IT must work with the institution to develop analytics and revise processes to ensure that at-risk students can be identified for meaningful support.

    This storyboard will help you assess the readiness of the institution for meaningful change, inventory the advising technology, assess the data culture and identify technology opportunities to align IT initiatives with success pathways.

    2. Interview Guide Template for Student Retention – This template includes three sets of interview questions for different groups of stakeholders supporting student retention at the university.

    This template includes three sets of interview questions for different groups of stakeholders supporting student retention at the university.

    3. Readiness Assessment for Student Retention – This template includes sections for documenting the retention goals and the insights leadership, analytics, and student success constituents.

    This template includes sections for documenting the retention goals and the objectives for leadership, analytics, and student success constituents.

    4. Student Retention Application Inventory Tool – Use this tool to record the current technology used to support retention at your institution.

    Use this tool to record the current technology used to support retention at your institution.

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    Support a Data-Driven Student Retention Program

    Student success is institutional success.

    EXECUTIVE BRIEF

    Analyst Perspective

    Identify technology opportunities to support student retention

    For decades, the higher education industry had the enviable position of receiving a steady pipeline of students from secondary school into degree programs. The outlook today is much different. There is lower enrolment; student numbers are down both domestically and internationally. Competition for these fewer students has increased and it has become imperative for universities to ensure that students don't drop out or transfer.

    There is no greater need for analytics in higher education than to identify students who are at risk of dropping out. To rely on previous measures of DFW rates often results in the alert coming too late. The institution needs data from across the student experience in order to offer students support before it's too late.

    The CIO needs to be a significant advisor to the people charged with retention. The institution needs to develop a greater maturity in data governance, it needs to better leverage its existing advising technology, and it needs to involve IT in the discussion to help identify technology opportunities to meet the retention challenge.

    This is a picture of Mark Maby, Research Director for Education, Industry Practice, Info-Tech Research Group

    Mark Maby
    Research Director for Education, Industry Practice
    Info-Tech Research Group

    Executive Summary

    Your Challenge

    Student success and retention is becoming increasingly important as competition for students increases and students' expectations rise.

    IT needs to be aware of the approach taken by the institution in order to:

    • support systems integration.
    • implement and perhaps build needed systems.
    • ensure the institution can support data quality standards.

    Common Obstacles

    Most larger institutions have already purchased technology to support retention initiatives. These systems are often under-utilized due to issues related to culture, systems integration and data governance. Common obstacles are:

    • A fragmented advising structure.
    • Siloed data preventing proper analytics.
    • Platforms purchased by advising or a single department, but not integrated across institution.

    Info-Tech's Approach

    Identify the student retention goals of the institution. Assess the challenges that end users face with their technology, as well as any issues with their data and systems integration. Work with stakeholders to identify the key data to support student retention.

    Info-Tech Insight

    Institutional culture is key to effective retention. Faculty, staff, and advisors must recognize the value of consistently and accurately recording key information. Only with accurate recording of information can leaders ask the right questions of the data to guide strategy and advising technology deliver value.

    Insight summary

    Overarching insight

    Institutional culture is key to effective retention. Faculty, staff, and advisors must recognize the value of consistently and accurately recording key information. Only with accurate information can leaders ask the right questions of the data to guide strategy and advising technology deliver value.

    Phase 1 insight

    The institution must be oriented towards student success:

    • Leadership has provided clear strategic goals.
    • Student support services is well-organized.
    • Faculty recognizes its role in student success.

    Phase 2 insight

    Most institutions have the technology for student retention initiatives.

    With effect data culture, those technology platforms will not achieve any value.

    Phase 3 insight

    Most analytics programs are too narrow in scope of their data.

    Leverage student journey mapping to understand the hidden factors affecting at-risk students.

    Tactical insight

    There needs to be executive ownership of student success.

    Misunderstanding of how to use data for the purpose of student retention is a threat to success.

    Student success is institutional success

    The higher education market is becoming increasingly competitive

    • The cost for four years of education will increase from $100,000 in 2021 to $162,818 by 2036. (Chekalov)
    • With increased competition comes increased restructuring:
      • University of Tulsa is phasing out 84 low-demand degree programs. (Kline)
      • In England, universities facing financial risk will only receive significant government assistance if they agree to merge or focus on further education to the exclusion of academic research. (Grove)
      • Laurentian University in Canada applied for creditor protection announced that 58 undergraduate programs and 11 graduate programs, spanning a diversity of subjects, will be closed. (CBC News)
      • Seven percent of higher education institutions are currently in discussion about merging with another campus. Twelve percent of leaders feel their institution should. (Chronicle of Higher Education)

    Prospects and subsequent enrollment are expected to continue to drop

    15%
    There is expected to be a 15% drop in freshman prospects in the five years leading up to 2025.
    Source: KCUPA-HR, 2019

    5.1%
    There has already been a 5.1% drop in enrollment since 2019.
    Source: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

    How is retention typically addressed?

    Governance

    • Leadership

    Ownership of retention may be with a dedicated VP, with the Provost, with the Registrar or with Enrolment.

    Retention is of critical concern to leadership, and the Board of Trustees will want to be updated. The Deans may be held accountable for their programs.

    • Committees

    A cross-functional retention committee will commonly address the key strategic initiatives including those related to college readiness, persistence, and timely progression to graduation.

    Strategy

    • Approach

    Successful institutions will coordinate quantitative analysis with qualitative insight from the students' perspective. IT's key role here will be to provide strong systems integration to enable the analytics capability.

    • Broad Examples of Retention Initiatives
      • Degree audit frequency
      • Auto-apply for graduation
      • Approaches tailored to specific majors
      • Training for faculty and staff on student mental health
      • Exam schedules optimized for student success

    Advising Support

    • Centralized / Decentralized

    Advising support may be centralized for all students regardless of major or decentralized to specific departments. A decentralized approach can provide more insightful advice and be more accessible to the students. However, undeclared first year students need to be addressed separately and there may be a need for more overall advisors.

    • Removing institutional barriers to students
      • Addressing course demand bottlenecks
      • Addressing DFW rates for critical courses
      • Holds on accounts that prevent students from registering
      • Generally removing unnecessary steps

    Factors affecting retention and completion

    Retention rates and completion rates remain challenged

    63%
    The retention rate at 2-year colleges from 2018-2019 was 63%.
    The completion-rate in six years from four-year institutions was also 63%.
    Source: National Center for Education Statistics

    The wide range of factors affecting student success means there is an equally wide range of data to be integrated.

    Working overtime

    Students start to fail if they work 25 hours a week.(1)

    Taking fewer credits

    Students take the minimum required credits for their grant.(1)

    Transferring

    A third of students will transfer and will lose a year of study in un-transferred credits.(1)

    Mental Health

    Men in higher education had five times the risk of dropping out when reporting poor mental health.(2)

    Sources: 1. New York Times, 2017. 2. BMC Public Health, 2016.

    Defining the data model

    The data included in the model will often align with the factors listed in the table below. Keep in mind, though, that there are likely factors affecting your specific students which are not included in the model. This can be a limitation of vendor solutions which focus on typical factors affecting retention. A student journey exercise is designed to identify those atypical factors.

    Demographics Prior Education Academics Activities Finances
    • Gender
    • Ethnicity
    • Geography
    • Parents' education
    • Secondary school GPA
    • SAT scores
    • Transfer credits
    • Enrollment in high DFW courses
    • Area of major
    • LMS usage
    • Advising visits
    • Extra-curricular activities
    • Tutoring visits
    • Expected family support
    • Types of aid
    • Amount of aid
    • Credit rating

    Dealing with False Positives

    LMS data, attendance, and other measures of student participation are some of the most valuable indicators of student success. However, the quality of the data hinges upon faculty consistently using the LMS and taking attendance.

    The issue is that a student might be actively attending and participating in class, but if this is not recorded in the LMS or attendance data, then that student might be falsely identified as at risk.

    The IT department may be called upon to write a script to clean the data by removing data from certain courses in order to remedy these false positives.

    Balancing technology and privacy concerns

    The benefits of location behavior technology and their privacy challenges

    Technology now exists that enables an institution to track their students' location on campus. The primary benefit is that attendance can be taken with a consistency that wouldn't otherwise be possible. The following points are useful to consider:

    • Students are more trusting of how their institution uses their personal data than they are of corporate social media (see the graph to the right).
    • An institution will likely need to get permission from each student for restricted uses of the data, as it would for use of a student's photo.
    • Students can opt in or opt out of this use of technology when they sign the privacy agreement that institutions are already collecting from students.
    • There are legal considerations that require legal counsel's advice.

    Student attitudes to data privacy This is a picture of a bar graph with the following data: Attendance: 10%; Enrolment; 22%; Course Engagement; 25%; Grades: 21%; Financial Info: 26%; Social Media: 58%

    Source: College Pulse, 2022.

    Effective data on students goes hand-in-hand with effective data privacy policies.

    Students in general have a high trust in their institution to use their private data responsibly.

    The chart below shows the proportion of students who are somewhat to very concerned about their institution using personal data by category. This contrasts with 58% of students who are somewhat to very concerned about how corporate social-media firms handle their personal data.

    Applications of the data

    Predictive analytics

    Predictive analytics are used to identify a probable outcome in the future. A multiple regression analysis is commonly employed to weigh the contribution different factors are expected to have.

    • Early alert systems
    • Targeted student advising

    An automated trigger for an at-risk student
    Secondary school GPA < 92%
    SAT < 540
    LMS logs in weeks 2-6 < 5x
    = 65% retention score
    < 70% institutional retention score

    Source: Evidence-Based Nursing, 2021.

    In this case, the student might be identified as being at medium risk for failing or dropping out. Student support services would apply an intervention appropriate to the situation.

    Descriptive analytics

    Descriptive analytics are focused on the past and are used to understand how well the current state is functioning.

    • Dashboards
    • Institutional analysis
    • Other reporting

    Applications of descriptive analytics

    • Courses with the highest number of DFW rates.
    • Four.-year completion rates for student with first-year DFW courses
    • Number of students with government aid taking less than a full credit load per semester.

    Case Study

    The preeminent example of retention reform.

    INDUSTRY: Higher Education
    SOURCE: Interview

    Issue

    Ineffective student advising and ineffective data-driven analytics left thousands of low-income students to drop out of the university each year.

    Georgia State University was experiencing significant challenges in achieving national standards for four- to six-year graduation rates.

    A closer analysis revealed that the university had more than 10,000 instances of students underperforming in a pre-requisite course. They may have received a "C" in a math course—a passing grade—but that's not good enough to indicate they will do well in the upper-level chemistry class they need to take next. In the past, these students would have been allowed to take the chemistry class, and after earning a "D" or "F" (or more typically, two or three of them) an adviser would finally reach out to help. The summary of the issue was an ineffective student advising and ineffective data-driven analytics.

    At universities like Georgia State, where 58 percent of students qualify as low-income by federal standards, thousands of students were dropping out because they were running out of funds.

    Case Study

    The preeminent example of retention reform.

    INDUSTRY: Higher Education
    SOURCE: Interview

    Solution

    A coordinated system of analytics with advising ensured that students receive attention at the earliest opportunity.

    To address this issue, GSU developed a data management and analytics strategy to inform the student and advisor of trouble early in the semester of the pre-requisite course. Now the analytics system alerts the student and the advisor that the student is at risk when the first grade is recorded, and an adviser reaches out immediately to help. Why wait until the student makes costlier mistakes instead of helping at the first sign of a problem?

    GSU now delivers the guidance students need in a timely fashion and is doing it for every student. It's having a big impact, especially for low-income and first-generation students.

    The average time to degree for graduating seniors has decreased by more than half a semester, saving each graduating class $18 million in tuition and fees. This means lower debt for these students at graduation. It also means more students are graduating, because more students can afford to do so.

    Guided Implementation

    What does a typical GI on this topic look like?

    Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3

    Call #1: Gather documentation.

    Call #4: Inventory advising technology.

    Call #6: Identify technology opportunities.

    Call #2: Interview Stakeholders.

    Call #5: 2.2 Assess data culture.

    Call #7: Align IT initiatives to success pathways.

    Call #3: Assess readiness.

    A Guided Implementation (GI) is a series

    of calls with an Info-Tech analyst to help implement our best practices in your organization.

    A typical GI is seven to twelve calls over the course of three to five months.

    Phase 1

    Readiness Assessment: Identify goals and develop detail

    Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3

    1.1 Gather documentation

    1.2 Interview Stakeholders

    1.3 Assess Readiness

    2.1 Inventory Advising Technology

    2.2 Assess Data Culture

    3.1 Identify Technology Opportunities

    3.2 Align IT Initiatives to Success Pathways

    Support a data-driven student retention program

    This phase will walk you through the following activities:

    Gather documentation related to student retention.

    Interview key stakeholders to understand the retention context.

    Identify IT's role in the retention initiative.

    This phase involves the following participants:

    Usually there will be a task force or committee with the key retention stakeholders. These are the individuals with whom IT should work to better understand the context.

    Step 1.1

    Gather Documentation on Leadership's Directive for Student Retention

    Activities

    1.1.1 Source Documentation Related to the Student Retention Initiative

    1.1.2 Review the Documentation and Identify Key Points and Remaining Questions

    Phase 1: Readiness Assessment

    This step involves the following participants:

    IT retention project team

    Outcomes of this step

    Retention goals and other key information

    Clarify the student retention context through a document review

    WHAT IS DOCUMENT REVIEW?

    Most institutions document important elements of their institutional context, such as strategy, organizational structure, and budget. Reviewing these documents is often pre-work for stakeholder interviews.

    Outputs

    Techniques

    Why it is important

    • High-level understanding of institutional context
    • Questions for stakeholder interviews
    • Reading relevant documents
    • Reviewing documents is a quick way to get baseline knowledge for institutional context
    • The process of reviewing documents may help you identify gaps in documentation that the institution should fill

    Info-Tech Insight

    Ideally the institution will have already conducted some analysis to determine which demographic groups to target and what challenges they face. This demographic profile will describe an obtainable target, achievable by focusing on specified mitigation strategies.

    Typical Documentation

    • Strategic mission of the institution on the website
    • Retention objectives from a strategy document
    • Campus planning
    • Demographic profile of the current students and the contributing factors to retention challenges.

    1.1.1 Source Key Documents

    1 hour

    1. Review the institution's website for key documentation related to student retention.
    2. If there is a task force set up for the student retention initiative, contact the chair of that committee for their project charter and the demographic profile.
    3. Contact student support services, institutional research, and/or the registrar for other documentation.
    Input

    Output

    • Student context documents
    • Understanding of previously unknown business context components

    Materials

    Participants

    • PC
    • Student retention team

    1.1.2 Review Key Documents

    1 hour

    1. Write down the questions that you are trying to answer with this activity. One of these should be to be to identify the institution's current retention rate and stated retention state. Review the Interview Guide Template for Student Retention. This will be used for interviewing stakeholders later in this phase, but it may be helpful for generating other questions.
    2. Review the documents with the questions in mind.
    3. Note down questions that you've answered in the Student Retention Readiness Assessment Template.
    4. Incorporate any remaining questions into the Interview Guide Template for Student Retention.
    Input

    Output

    • Business context documents
    • Interview Guide Template for Student Retention
    • Understanding of previously unknown business context components

    Materials

    Participants

    • PC
    • List of questions for assessing the readiness of the institution.
    • Student Retention Readiness Assessment Template
    • Student retention team

    Step 1.2

    Interview Key Stakeholders to Clarify the Retention Goals and Develop Detail

    Activities

    1.2.1 Create a List of Stakeholders to Interview

    1.2.2 Leverage Info-Tech's Sample Interview Questions

    1.2.3 Consolidate Findings

    Phase 1: Readiness Assessment

    This step involves the following participants:

    Student-retention task force or committee.

    Outcomes of this step

    Understanding of retention in the context of the institution

    Identify key stakeholders for detail on retention

    A prerequisite to strategic planning should be to elicit the institutional context from leadership. A student retention initiative is no different.

    If retention is a prioritized initiative for leadership, often a task force or committee will have been established for retention. Interviewing the members of this task force may be sufficient.

    There are likely both explicit goals in formal strategy and planning documentation, and objectives which are not clarified as well. Also, there can be different perspectives at different levels of the institution.

    The diagram shows the typical key stakeholders involved in setting and monitoring student retention objectives.

    Task force for student retention

    • Stakeholders
      • President
      • Provost
      • Enrollment
      • Deans
      • Registrar
      • Student Support Services
      • Institutional
      • Research
      • Information
      • Technology
      • Finance
      • Faculty

    1.2.1 Create a List of Stakeholder Interviews

    1 hour

    1. Access an organizational chart of the institution's leadership, as well as a chart of the committee structure, if available.
    2. Identify the key people who have a direct relationship with establishing the retention at the institution. First identify those who are part of a retention task force, if it exists. Typical examples include president, provost, deans of the different colleges and departments, and the head of student support services or student life. There may be a leadership or academic council which brings together many of these roles.
    3. Reach out to those people to arrange a one-on-one interview with them to discuss retention goals. The meetings should take less than 30 minutes.
    Input

    Output

    • Org Chart
    • Committee structure
    • List of stakeholders for interview

    Materials

    Participants

    • PC
    • Interview Guide Template for Student Retention
    • Student retention team

    1.2.2 Conduct Interviews With Key Stakeholders

    1 hour

    1. Leverage the list of interview questions provided in this research. Review the questions and modify them as you deem necessary.
    2. Book time with each stakeholder identified, and then conduct the interview.
    3. Document key findings in the Student Retention Readiness Assessment Template.
    Input

    Output

    • Notes from the interviews
    • Consolidated findings from the interviews

    Materials

    Participants

    • PC
    • Student Retention Readiness Assessment
    • Retention team for IT

    1.2.3 Consolidate Findings

    1 hour

    Refer to your initial questions for establishing whether to move forward with the project.

    Consolidate the findings into notes centered around the different questions initially posed.

    Note any other important information for moving ahead with the retention project.

    Step 1.3

    Assess IT's role within the retention project

    Activities

    1.3.1 Review the Conditions That Enable a Successful Student Retention Initiative

    Phase 1: Readiness Assessment

    This step involves the following participants:

    Student success task force

    Outcomes of this step

    Directive for IT

    1.3.1 Review the Conditions for Success

    1 hour

    1. Share the results of the interviews and the readiness assessment with the student success task force.
    2. Collect responses from the group about how their initiatives will address some of the non-technical concerns around culture and capacity.
    3. Leverage the thought model from the Executive Brief of this blueprint to illustrate what IT plans to do to move forward with retention initiative:
      • Assess the current state of advising technology.
      • Assess the data culture of the institution in relation to student success.
      • Support the retention team as they conduct student-journey mapping with current students who fit the target profile.
      • Develop a roadmap for IT's role.
    4. Have a group discussion about engaging volunteer students for the student journey exercise. The volunteer students should fit the target demographics for retention.
    Input

    Output

    • Results from the interviews with stakeholders
    • Commitment to move forward with IT's plan

    Materials

    Participants

    • Student Retention Readiness Assessment Template
    • IT representative for student retention
    • CIO
    • Student Success Task Force

    Phase 2

    Assess the current state of your advising technology and data culture

    Phase 1Phase 2Phase 3

    1.1 Gather documentation

    1.2 Interview Stakeholders

    1.3 Assess Readiness

    2.1 Inventory Advising Technology

    2.2 Assess Data Culture

    3.1 Identify Technology Opportunities

    3.2 Align IT Initiatives to Success Pathways

    Support a data-driven student retention program

    This phase will walk you through the following activities:

    • A review of the current state of your advising technology
    • A survey to assess the data culture in your institution

    This phase involves the following participants:

    • Student success task force
    • A broad group of stakeholders who are involved with data and retention

    Inventory current advising technology

    Advising technology can be considered any tool which supports the student advising capability of the institution.

    This includes the categories outlined in the graphic to the right.

    Some of the tools may be grouped within a single platform, such as a dedicated student retention system. Some may be a homegrown solution, as many early alert systems are. Other tools, such as the CRM, may be used widely outside the narrow use case of the advising function.

    This image contains a list of current advising technology.  This list includes Advising technology; CRM; 	Early alert systems;		Predictive analytics; Case Mgmt.; 	Education planning; 	Communication tools; 	Location Behavior.  Around the list, are the following Categories: 	Institutional Research;	Academic Support; Student Life; Student support services; Financial Aid; Enrolment

    Top student retention platforms

    CampusNexus
    Student-focused "CRM" with both BI and Case Management

    Civitas Learning
    Comprehensive student success platform

    ConexED
    Self-service-focused advising/counseling tool

    EAB
    Engagement planning tool with out-of-the-box templates

    NuroRetention
    Modular engagement and case management platform

    PrecisionCampus
    Analytics-focused higher-ed reporting tool

    SEAtS
    User friendly early warning system for at-risk students

    Starfish
    Comprehensive student engagement tool

    Workday
    Academic Advising module for connecting students to resources

    Top Level Features

    Feature Name Description
    Case Management Sort and track student cases across departments, advisors, and faculty.
    Predictive Analytics Use datasets and custom modeling to pinpoint the factors most likely to influence student success.
    Student Engagement Plans Build plans to re-engage students that can be shared and tracked.
    Student Segment Templates Out-of-the-box engagement plan templates for common student personas.
    Automated Alerts Automated alerts based on specific criteria and historical data identify students in need of engagement.
    Report Generation Out-of-the-box reports which display relevant insights regarding student engagement initiatives.
    Automated Workflows Automatically triage student success cases.
    Multi-Channel Communication Engage students directly from the platform using a range of channels (i.e. SMS, Email, Social).
    Access Permissions Manage which specific roles have access to student information and engagement plans.
    Integration with Secondary School Systems Conduct high-school student outreach and import digital transcripts.

    Vendor Quadrant

    This quadrant is an objective overview of the landscape. The results are based on the expert opinion of the analyst and detailed secondary research

    Legend

    Vendor Functionality
    Does the vendor have a strong breadth and depth of capability?

    Vendor Footprint
    How big is the vendor? Do they have a valid roadmap?

    This is an image of a quadrant analysis containing the student retention platforms discussed earlier in this blueprint. In the top left quadrant is WorkDay.  In the top right quadrant are: Starfish; Campusnexus; SEAtS Software; Civitas Learning.  In the bottom left quadrant are: Nuro Retention; ConexED; Precision Campus.  In the bottom right quadrant is: EAB

    Step 2.1

    Conduct an Inventory of the Current State of Your Advising Technology

    Activities

    2.1.1 Review Your Current Advising Technology

    2.1.2 Decide Whether You Have the Minimum Viable Technology

    Phase 2: Assess Current Technology and Data

    This step involves the following participants:

    Student retention task force and staff who work with advising-related technology from the following areas:

    Enrollment, Deans, Registrar, Student Support Services, Institutional Research, Information Technology, Financial Aid

    Outcomes of this step

    Identified gaps in your institution's current advising technology.

    2.1.1 Review Your Current Advising Technology

    1-3 hours

    1. Look at the major functions or processes within the scope of student retention (refer to the Student Retention Application Inventory Tool).
    2. Compile an inventory of current systems that interact with the chosen processes. In its simplest form, document your application inventory in a spreadsheet (see tab 3 of the Student Retention Application Inventory Tool).
    3. Interview representatives of different departments to help create your list of applications. Leverage the Student Retention Task Force to identify these individuals.
    4. Make note of the stakeholders' satisfaction and use of the different tools. Note whether they need other tools or replacement of tools.
    5. Make sure to include any processes that are manual, versus automated.
    Input

    Output

    • Current systems
    • Key processes
    • List of key business processes

    Materials

    Participants

    • Student Retention Application Inventory Tool
    • Whiteboard, PowerPoint, or flip charts
    • IT and stakeholders with functional knowledge of advising technology

    2.1.2 Decide on Minimum Viable Technology

    1-3 hours

    Review the inventory and notes on advising technology. Identify any common issues with the technology that different stakeholders have identified as needing to be addressed.

    Review any manual processes which could be beneficially automated.

    List the different initiatives in Student Retention Application Inventory Tool.

    Input

    Output

    • Advising inventory and notes from interviews with stakeholders who use the advising technology.

    List of possible initiatives to improve advising technology and processes.

    Materials

    Participants

    • Student Retention Application Inventory Tool
    • IT's retention team

    Step 2.2

    Assess Your Data Culture

    Activities

    2.2.1 Conduct a Data Culture Survey

    2.2.2 Review the Results and Outline Key Issues for Improvement

    Phase 2: Assess Current Technology and Data

    This step involves the following participants:

    A broad range of stakeholders who interact with data-related student activity.

    Outcomes of this step

    Assessment of the institution's data culture and a list of data initiatives to prepare for student retention initiatives.

    Data Culture Scorecard

    Building a culture of Data Excellence

    "Organizational culture can accelerate the application of analytics, amplify its power, and steer companies away from risky outcomes."
    – McKinsey

    A culture of data excellence is key to amplifying the power of your data and to sustainably leveraging its value.

    What does it look like?

    • Everyone knows the data.
    • Everyone trusts the data.
    • Everyone talks about the data.

    Please refer to the accompanying Data Culture Scorecard for detailed results.

    Data Culture Diagnostic: Example Summary

    Data Themes Rating

    Comments

    Ownership

    Ownership roles defined, understood.

    Familiar with lifecycle and retention.

    Somewhat familiar

    We do not have standardized roles within academic units.

    Data ownership siloes.

    Governance

    Governance body in place.

    Know data issue resolution concerns.

    Somewhat familiar

    Everyone uses a different system, and the systems and people don't talk to each other.

    Data stewards request feedback but it is more of a final check rather than inclusion in initial planning.

    Aware of data security policy and comply with it.

    Always

    Should have formalized framework that aligns data elements to security levels and a permissions framework.

    Data as an Asset

    University treats data as an asset.

    Somewhat disagree

    University leverages data to its full potential for supporting organization-wide decision making.

    Disagree
    Tools and Processes

    Understand standard operating procedure regarding collecting, requesting, using, sharing, and archiving data.

    Somewhat familiar

    Shortcuts are taken when something proves 'difficult', e.g. deleting records rather than expiring them.

    Have all the necessary tools to manage your data.

    Have all the necessary tools to process your data.

    Somewhat agree

    Complex data ecosystem.

    Having to rely on another group to change ODS data is a hindrance.

    Data Culture Diagnostic: Example Summary

    Data Themes Rating

    Comments

    Business Purpose

    Feel there is a good link between the data you manage and the university's strategic objectives.

    During project planning, consider data governance, security, etc.

    Somewhat familiar

    Accessibility and Knowledge

    Understand your data.

    Somewhat familiar

    Rigid policies concerning who can access data.

    Have access to the data you need.

    Somewhat disagree

    Many systems do not integrate with each other. There are many occasions each year when I do not have access to the data I need to do my job.

    Understanding where data is.

    No clear process for getting access to systems.

    Data Literacy and Training

    Good understanding of the meaning of all the data.

    Well-defined terms.

    Have received sufficient training re. tools and available data.

    Somewhat disagree

    After data quality, the definitions of data is the next biggest hindrance. E.g. what constitutes a student?

    Further support for a flourishing, collaborative data culture across the Institution would be needed to completely facilitate this. For example, through building shared understanding of how data can be part of producing and applying knowledge and creativity across functional areas, directly informed by the mission of the Institution.

    Quality and Trust

    Acceptable data quality level.

    Trust the quality of data.

    Somewhat agree

    Find yourself having to cleanse, massage, and verify data to bring it to acceptable level.

    Agree

    Data quality is the biggest hindrance.

    Our team needs to do cleaning and manual manipulation of data downstream.

    Data Culture Diagnostic: Example Summary

    Data Themes Rating

    Comments

    Reporting and Analytics

    Have access to the reporting you need.

    University's analytics processes and technologies are sufficient.

    Somewhat disagree

    Disconnect between people who design reports and those who use them.

    Difficult to get to right reports. Too many different systems.

    CORE reports inconsistent. Difficult to find information.

    Shift in definitions of gender and race have implications for analysis reporting, for student visibility / erasure, etc. I worry that the folks who make these changes don't think about the people behind the programs and data.

    Change Management

    You are made aware of changes in standard operating procedures in a timely manner.

    You are given sufficient notice of any change in operational systems, procedure, or policy that may affect your use of data.

    Somewhat agree

    There is no place where we can find out about data integrations and changes. We usually stumble onto something that indicates there may be new and changed data.

    Often we are not made aware of changes to operational systems; this affects our ability to maintain systems and transition in a timely manner.

    Contact ITRG for prioritization with your results

    2.2.1 Conduct a Data Culture Survey

    1-3 hours

    1. Make a broad list of everyone who works with retention-related data, as potential survey participants. Focus on stakeholders who can be described as 'key' or 'heavy' data users.
    2. Review the list against the advising technology inventory from the previous step to validate its completeness.
    3. Send out the data culture survey to those on the list. Include an email explaining the purpose of the survey is to assess the state of the data culture in the institution with a focus on improving its use for application in student retention initiatives.
    4. Include a date when you want the survey completed.
    5. As the date approaches, send out reminder emails to those who haven't yet completed the survey. Consider giving an extension to those who have indicated an intention to complete the survey.
    Input

    Output

    • Completed Student Retention Application Inventory Tool

    Completed data culture survey responses

    Materials

    Participants

    • Student Retention Application Inventory Tool
    • IT's retention team
    • Broad list of stakeholders who work with student retention data

    2.2.2 Review the Data Culture Survey Results

    1-3 hours

    1. Review the results of the survey, noting that the 29 questions are grouped around the following ten topics: Ownership, Governance, Data as an Asset, Tools & Processes, Business Purpose, Accessibility & Knowledge, Data Literacy & Training, Quality & Trust, Reporting & Analytics, and Change Management.
    2. Assess whether your data culture has the minimum level of maturity and satisfaction to move on with the retention project.
      • Each question has four responses; they are colored in green for positive responses, and in yellow and red for negative responses.
      • If any three of the above ten topics are dominantly negative, then consider focusing on initiatives to improve those areas before moving forward with the student retention initiatives.
      • Alternatively, if the primary response (the mode) is red for ten or more of the total 29 questions (more than a third), then prioritize initiatives to improve data quality before moving on with the retention initiatives.
    3. Review the comments section of the survey to further inform your next-step decision.
    Input

    Output

    • Responses from the Data Culture Survey
    • A decision on whether to move forward with the retention initiatives or to focus on initiatives to provide a solid foundation to the data culture.

    Materials

    Participants

    • Responses from the Data Culture Survey
    • IT's retention team

    Info-Tech Resources

    Build a Robust and Comprehensive Data Strategy
    Formulate a data strategy that stitches all the pieces together to better position you to unlock the value in your data.

    Create a Data Management Roadmap
    Streamline your data management program with our simplified framework.

    Establish Data Governance
    Establish data trust and accountability with strong governance.

    Build Your Data Quality Program
    Data needs to be good, but truly spectacular data may go unnoticed. Provide the right level of data quality, with the appropriate effort, for the correct usage. This blueprint will help you determine what "the right level of data quality" means and create a plan to achieve that goal for the business.

    Build a Data Integration Strategy
    Integrate your data or disintegrate your business.

    Develop a Master Data Management Strategy and Roadmap
    Make sure your most important data is accurate and accessible across your business units to ensure optimal decision support and to monetize your data assets.

    Build a Reporting and Analytics Strategy
    Deliver actionable business insights by creating a business-aligned reporting and analytics strategy.

    Establish an Analytics Operating Model
    Accelerate data-driven decision making.

    Build a Data Pipeline for Reporting and Analytics
    Use data architecture best practices to prepare data for reporting and analytics.

    Build a Data Architecture Roadmap
    Optimizing data architecture requires a plan, not just a data model.

    Modernize Data Architecture for Measurable Business Results
    Enable the business to achieve operational excellence, client intimacy, and product leadership with an innovative, agile, and fit-for-purpose data architecture practice.

    Data Literacy Training (coming soon)
    Enhance data literacy in your organization to build bridges between the business leads who own the data, and IT, who is its custodian.

    Phase 3

    Develop insight into at-risk students through student journey mapping

    Phase 1Phase 2Phase 3

    1.1 Gather documentation

    1.2 Interview Stakeholders

    1.3 Assess Readiness

    2.1 Inventory Advising Technology

    2.2 Assess Data Culture

    3.1 Identify Technology Opportunities

    3.2 Align IT Initiatives to Success Pathways

    Support a data-driven student retention program

    This phase will walk you through the following activities:

    Work with institutional colleagues to conduct a journey mapping exercise with students that fit an at-risk persona. You will identify opportunities to digitize parts of the journey. These opportunities will be broken down into functional initiatives to tackle in your strategy.

    This phase involves the following participants:

    Student success task force.

    Develop IT initiatives through involvement in the larger journey-mapping process

    This image contains a journey map for the following IT Initiatives: Demographic profiles; Exit interviews; Focus groups; Personas; Journey scenario; Journey mapping; IT opportunities; Student pathways; IT initiatives.  The institution should already have profiles of their target demographics for retention. These, along with exit interviews and focus groups, can inform the development of student personas. The personas provide insight to develop the journey statements, which in turn inform the detailed journey mapping process. IT can derive technology opportunities from the output of the journey-mapping exercise. When the institution develops the success pathways for these students, IT can use this framework to prioritize its initiatives.

    Identify stakeholder persona and journey scenario

    Stakeholder personas and scenarios help us build empathy towards our stakeholders, whether they are our students, our faculty, or someone else in the community. The persona helps put us into the shoes of a stakeholder and relate to their experience to solve problems or understand how they experience the steps or processes required to accomplish a goal. A user persona is a valuable basis for stakeholder journey-mapping.

    A stakeholder persona is a fictitious profile to represent a customer or a user segment. Creating this persona helps us understand who your customers really are and why they are using your service or product.

    A stakeholder scenario describes the situation the journey map addresses.

    Learn more about applying design thinking methodologies

    Identify stakeholder persona

    Who are you transforming for?

    To define a stakeholder scenario, we need to understand who we are mapping for. Intuitions will have demographic profiles of their target population for retention. Insight into this target group is provide through exit interviews and focus groups.

    Using this information, the institution can develop stakeholder personas. These are representations of the end-users, and they are developed to gain a strong understanding of who they are, what they need, their barriers, and their enablers to success.

    * For a good source on conducting student interviews, see Kinzie, Jillian. NSSE Cognitive Interview Facilitation Guide. Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, 2010.

    Demographic profiles The institution will have a broad understanding of the students they are targeting for retention.
    Exit interviews As students attrit, their reasons should be captured through exit interviews.
    Focus groups Groups interviews are made with students who fit the profile.*
    Persona A personal description of a typical student who fits the profile.

    Example Stakeholder Persona

    Stakeholder demographics
    Name: Joan
    Age: 23
    Location: Arlington, Texas

    Joan is a shy 23-year-old, female currently living at home.

    Sal has mobility issues as a result of physical disabilities (wheelchair user with some hearing / visual challenges). Due to life's challenges, she is both resilient but vulnerable to prejudice from other students and staff, as she has faced discouragement in her career choice.

    Barriers
    What are their frustrations, fears, and anxieties?

    • Multiple obstacles for wheelchair and can't open heavy doors.
    • Providers and staff are not prepared to 'receive and serve' learners with disability.
    • Physical inability to use un-adapted technology such as laptops.
    • Online interaction reinforces social isolation.

    What do they need to do?
    What do they want to get done? How will they know they are successful?

    • To be given the enablers to overcome physical barriers.
    • The same opportunities as non-disabled learners.
    • Connections with potential employers.

    Enablers
    What are their wants, needs, hopes, and dreams?

    • Different ways to demonstrate knowledge.
    • Access to spaces and support services arranged in advance.
    • Adapted and subsidized technology.
    • Support services.
    • Peer support - opportunities to interact with other learners.

    Adapted from the New Zealand Institute of Technology and Skills Establishment Board, 2020.

    Map Stakeholder Journeys

    A journey scenario

    " [persona name] needs to solve/accomplish/complete [a problem] because they need to satisfy [underlying motivation to solve the problem] in a way that [important quality of solution]."

    A stakeholder journey

    This is an image of a stakeholder journey map.  The process involves: Awareness; Consideration; Acquisition; Service; Loyalty.

    A journey-based approach helps an organization understand where stakeholder experience sharply degrades and identify opportunities to redesign the ailing journeys and compose new ones.

    A stakeholder journey refers to the path followed by a stakeholder to accomplish a goal.

    A journey scenario specific to the needs of the persona is developed to define the goal of the journey.

    Build a Stakeholder Journey Map

    A stakeholder journey map is a tool used to illustrate the user's perceptions, emotions, and needs as they move through a process and interact with the organization in the form of touchpoints, channels, and supporting characters.

    This is an image of a template which can be used to generate your own Stakeholder Journey Map

    Example of stakeholder journey output: Higher Education

    Stakeholder: A faculty member
    Journey statement: As an engineering faculty member, I want to design my curricula in a hybrid mode of delivery so that I can simulate in-classroom experiences

    Journey Activity Understand the needs of students Construct the course material Deliver Course Material Conduct Assessments

    Upload grades into system

    Touchpoints

    • Research (primary or secondary)
    • Teaching and learning center
    • Training on tools
    • Office suite
    • Video tools
    • PowerPoint live
    • Chat (live)
    • Forum (FAQ)
    • Online assessment tool
    • ERP
    • LMS
    Nature of Activity
    • Non-routine cognitive
    • Non-routine cognitive
    • Non-routine cognitive
    • Routine cognitive
    • Routine Manual

    Metrics

    • Time to completion
    • Time to completion
    • Student satisfaction
    • Student satisfaction
    • Student scores

    Key Moments & Pain Points

    • Lack of centralized repository for research knowledge
    • Too many tools to use
    • Lack of Wi-Fi connectivity for students
    • Loss of social aspects
    • Adjusting to new forms of assessments
    • No existing critical pain points; process already automated
    Opportunities
    • Centralized repository for research knowledge
    • Rationalize course creation tool set
    • Connectivity self-assessment/checklist
    • Forums for students
    • Implement an online proctoring tool

    Define Your Digital Business Strategy

    Leverage Info-Tech's Digital Strategy Research

    Our blueprint, Define Your Digital Business Strategy, includes a detailed methodology to conduct stakeholder journey mapping.

    Create a balanced roadmap that improves digital maturity and prepares you for long-term success in a digital economy.

    This is a screenshot from the Info-Tech Blueprint: Define your Digital Business Strategy. This blueprint explores New Customer Frontiers; Resilient Operations; Workforce of the Future; and Continuous Innovation

    Define Your Digital Business Stategy

    Step 3.1

    Identify Technology Opportunities Through the Journey-Mapping Exercise

    Activities

    • Identify Technology Opportunities During the Journey-Mapping Exercise

    Phase 3: Develop insight into at-risk students

    This step involves the following participants:

    Student retention task force

    Outcomes of this step

    Technology opportunities to support student retention

    3.1 Stakeholder Journey Mapping

    This activity is designed to supplement the methodology outlined in Phase 3 of Build a Business Aligned Digital Strategy

    1. Join the journey mapping group to map out the journey scenario statements that align to student retention initiatives.
    2. The process will map out the steps involved to accomplish the goal of the stakeholder, identify the touch points involved in the value chain, and categorize the nature of the activity in the journey activity.
    3. Pay particular attention to the identification of pain points and provide insight into technology opportunities.
    4. A record of the journey mapping activity will be documented in the Digital Strategy Workbook from the blueprint, Build a Business-Aligned IT Strategy.
    Input

    Output

    • Stakeholder Personas
    • Journey Mapping Scenario
    • Journey Map

    Materials

    Participants

    • Digital Strategy Workbook, "Stakeholder Journey" tab
    • Individuals in the organization that have a direct interaction with the stakeholders

    Info-Tech Insight

    Aim to build out 90% of the stakeholder journey map with the working team; validate the last 10% with the stakeholders themselves.

    Align technology opportunities with success pathways to prioritize IT initiatives

    This image contains a sample success pathway to prioritize IT Initiatives.  
		Opportunities from the journey mapping exercise are often organized into pathways for student success. These pathways seek to support students' specific needs as they progress through their academic career. Some of these opportunities will have technology implications. To prioritize the opportunities and develop initiatives for IT, Info-Tech recommends the following model.Feasibility:  Do you currently have the capabilities to deliver on this opportunity? Desirability: Is this a solution the stakeholder needs? Does it solve a known pain point? Viability: Does this opportunity align with the success pathways of the larger retention initiative?

    Sources: Empowering America: Reinventing Pathways to College and the Workforce, 2022. Pathways to Education, 2022.

    Step 3.2

    Align IT Initiatives to Success Pathways

    Activities

    3.2.1 Prioritization of Opportunities

    3.2.2 Break Down Opportunities into Initiatives

    Phase 3: Develop insight into at-risk students

    This step involves the following participants:

    Student retention task force

    Outcomes of this step

    List of initiatives for IT to support student retention.

    3.2.1 Prioritization of Opportunities

    This activity is designed to supplement the methodology outlined in Phase 3 of Build a Business Aligned Digital Strategy

    1. Join the journey-mapping group as they gather the opportunities identified in the journey-mapping exercise
    2. Assess the opportunities based on IDEO's three lenses of innovation (Source: )
      • Feasibility: Do you currently have the capabilities to deliver on this opportunity? Do we have the right partners, resources, or technology?
      • Desirability: Is this a solution the stakeholder needs? Does it solve a known pain point?
      • Viability: The assumption here is that the retention task force will be developing success pathways for at-risk students. From this context, ask the question, "Does this opportunity align with the success pathways of the larger retention initiative?"
    3. Opportunities that score high in all three areas are prioritized for the roadmap.
    Input

    Output

    • Opportunities From Journey Map
    • Prioritized Opportunities

    Materials

    Participants

    • Digital Strategy Workbook
    • Student Retention Task Force

    Break down opportunities into a series of initiatives

    Initiatives

    Implement an early alert system

    Technology

    Build or buy an early alert system to automatically flag at-risk students.

    People

    Co-ordinate with the analytics department on the analytics model.

    Process

    Co-ordinate change management with the advising department.

    Develop a faculty dashboard

    Technology

    Leverage PowerBI to develop a dashboard with key data for deans and faculty.

    People

    Conduct needs assessment with the various deans and department heads.

    Process

    Identify corollary actions faculty take which are prompted by the data found in the dashboard.

    Info-Tech Insight

    Ruthlessly evaluate if an initiative should stand alone or if it can be rolled up with another. Fewer initiatives or opportunities increases focus and alignment, allowing for better communication.

    3.2.2 Break Down Opportunities into Initiatives

    This activity is designed to supplement the methodology outlined in Phase 3 of Build a Business Aligned Digital Strategy

    1. Split into groups and identify initiatives required to deliver on each opportunity. Document each initiative on sticky notes.
    2. Have each team answer the following questions to identify initiatives for the prioritized opportunities:
      • People: What initiatives are required to manage people, data, and other organizational factors that are impacted by this opportunity?
      • Process: What processes must be created, changed, or removed based on the data?
      • Technology: What systems are required to support this opportunity?
    3. Document findings in the Digital Strategy Workbook.
    Input

    Output

    • Opportunities
    • Opportunity initiatives categorized by people, process and technology

    Materials

    Participants

    • Digital Strategy Workbook
    • Student Retention Task Force

    Research Contribution

    Research insight was provided through engagement with the University of Texas at Arlington which included interviews with 15 members of staff, faculty, and leadership on the current state of student retention and the needs of students to improve rates of graduation and completion.

    Bibliography

    "Advising Technology Playbook - Home." The Ada Center, . Accessed 28 Jan. 2022.

    Ali, Parveen, and Ahtisham Younas. "Understanding and Interpreting Regression Analysis." Evidence-Based Nursing, vol. 24, no. 4, 2021, pp. 116–18.

    CBC News. "Laurentian University Cuts 100 Professors, Dozens of Programs | CBC News." CBC, 9 Apr. 2021. Web.

    Chekalov, Max. How To Stop Declining Enrollment In Higher Education. 28 Mar. 2020. Web.

    Chronicle of Higher Education. Stronger Together Than Alone? Assessing College Leaders' Attitudes Toward Mergers and Other Partnerships. Chronicle of Higher Education, 2021. Web.

    College Pulse. "Student Perspective on Data Privacy." Student Voice. Accessed 7 Apr. 2022. Web.

    Educause. Success Factors for Advising Technology Implementation. 4 Oct. 2021, https://library.educause.edu/resources/2021/10/success-factors-for-advising-technology-implementation.

    Empowering America: Reinventing Pathways to College and the Workforce. https://commission.fiu.edu/helpful-documents/higher-education-general/empowering-america.pdf. Accessed 22 Apr. 2022.

    Grove, Jack. "Mergers and 'FE Future' Predicted for Some English Universities." Times Higher Education (THE), 11 May 2020. Web.

    Hjorth, Cathrine F., et al. "Mental Health and School Dropout across Educational Levels and Genders: A 4.8-Year Follow-up Study." BMC Public Health, vol. 16, Sept. 2016, pp. 976–976. Web.

    Kinzie, Jillian. NSSE Cognitive Interview Facilitation Guide. Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, 2010.

    Kline, Missy. "The Looming Higher Ed Enrollment Cliff." CUPA-HR, 2019. Web.

    Kolodner, Meredith. "6 Reasons You May Not Graduate on Time (and What to Do About It)." The New York Times, 6 Apr. 2017. Web.

    National Center for Education Statistics. Undergraduate Retention and Graduation Rates. 2021. Web.

    National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. "Current Term Enrollment Estimates."
    National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 13 Jan. 2022. Web.

    New Zealand Institute of Technology and Skills Establishment Board. Mobilizing the New World Report of the Learner Journey Mapping Workstream. 2020. Web.

    Pathways to Education. "Pathways Model." Pathways to Education, Accessed 2 May 2022. Web.

    Student success is institutional success.

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    Guided Implementation #1 - Readiness Assessment: Identify Goals and Develop Detail
    • Call #1 - Gather documentation
    • Call #2 - Interview stakeholders
    • Call #3 - Assess readiness

    Guided Implementation #2 - Assess the Current State of Your Advising Technology and Data Culture
    • Call #1 - Inventory advising technology
    • Call #2 - Assess data culture

    Guided Implementation #3 - Develop Insight into At-Risk Students Through Student Journey Mapping
    • Call #1 - Identify technology opportunities
    • Call #2 - Align IT initiatives to success pathways

    Author

    Mark Maby

    Contributors

    15 members of staff, faculty and leadership at the University of Texas at Arlington

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