A Transformation in Retention Strategies
By Matthew Schnittman
Going into 2016, we expect to see a complete transformation in the way institutions approach retention. With a renewed focus to not only to retain, but to retain at scale, institutions will shift the way they prioritize data and the way they use it to drive personalized outreach among large student populations. To really make an impact, it will take a balance of technology and people.
Data has always been a valuable piece of the retention puzzle, but without proper analysis and the ability to make it actionable and scalable, all it is, is data. Student support is also imperative, but without a foundation of relevant information to drive interactions, advisors can struggle to make meaningful connections with students. Fortunately, this division of assets is beginning to merge.
More colleges and universities are realizing the potential of a “closed-loop data + coaching” model, integrating technology, staff and a culture to continuously learn from student engagement and improve results. For example, technology that facilitates predictive data modeling utilizing enrollment, academic and behavioral information can identify at-risk students. Advisors and coaches can then apply this information to forecast patterns and outcomes, assign students to personalized communication plans, and proactively reach out. Based on the results of these data-driven intervention strategies, institutions can better understand what works, allowing for the opportunity to test, develop best practices, and create “closed-loop” insights.
Data and coaching are not new concepts, but the innovative way they can be combined to provide a truly personalized, student-centric experience in a scalable, sustainable model is going to change the face of retention as we know it.
Matthew Schnittman is the President & CEO of Helix Education, a leader in maximizing higher education enrollment growth by delivering data-driven services and technologies across the post-traditional student lifecycle.
Open Educational Resources Trending Up
By Ed Schlichenmayer
Rising concerns over affordability and graduation rates are prompting higher-education institutions to seek out solutions to address both. Colleges and universities have been cautiously exploring whether open educational resources (OER) can help lower costs to students and also support faculty in tailoring course materials to the learning goals of each class.
Campus bookstores have noticed a slow but steady increase in the adoption of open materials for courses. OER appears ready to ramp up in 2016, thanks to several factors. To help faculty find open resources to fit their instructional plans, academic groups and content providers have set up searchable OER repositories and portals, such as the Applied Math and Science Education Repository and the OER Commons. Other organizations (for instance, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation) are underwriting grants to develop open materials.
Many institutions are now encouraging their professors to consider assigning open sources on their syllabi. Some are even establishing programs to incentivize and fund faculty to develop original OER materials. Indiana State University, for example, offered faculty a $3,000 stipend to produce their own free course materials for classes.
As faculty use of open resources grows, it will be important to ensure that students understand the value of these materials to their education and utilize them, especially since a large percentage of open resources are digital. Multiple studies, including Student Watch™ surveys conducted by NACS’ OnCampus Research, show that students far prefer to study materials in print, rather than on a screen
Campus bookstores are taking steps to facilitate student access to low-cost print versions of OER. Stores are partnering with companies such as OpenStax at Rice University to stock print copies of open textbooks or working with local printing services to create inexpensive bound copies of materials written or curated by faculty. When a print option is offered for a class, stores report students choose to buy it, even though the digital materials are free.
Campus stores are also open to working with other entities, including academic libraries and IT. All share an interest in supporting affordability and student success.
Ed Schlichenmayer is deputy CEO of the National Association of College Stores (NACS) and COO of indiCo, a NACS subsidiary that provides specialized business solutions and operating strategies to independent and institutionally-run campus stores. Both organizations are based in Oberlin, Ohio.
Virtual Reality Will Gain Momentum
By Paige Francis
Based on the current need to successfully reach a shrinking pool of prospective students in a deeper, more meaningful way, I see virtual reality rearing a significant head in the technology landscape. It’s already a strong buzzword; yet I believe it will gain momentum in higher education in 2016 specifically within the areas of recruiting and marketing and feasibly through academics. The ability to communicate a felt experience from a distance, creating a tangible response to a virtual immersion, may very well leapfrog in-person visits and face-to-face interactions during the attraction process. Within the online and hybrid learning environments, I see virtual reality having the capacity to serve as an engagement glue, eliminating boundaries of distance and hands-on.
From a tactical perspective, having worn the Google Cardboard goggles for a few minutes here at Fairfield University I can say I was moved. I am rarely surprised and the simplicity truly surprised me. To create something so inexpensive and slim to promote yet another tactical use of a person’s device of choice – brilliant. No clunky equipment, no high upfront costs, and mailable for a reasonable price? This puts virtual reality in the playing field. Finally, the heavy-lifting is off the shoulders of the consumer and almost entirely on the provider. A futuristic, palatable, much-needed concept in the delivery of wearables, without the wearable itself being the focus. It simply becomes the attainable medium to access the experience.
I see virtual reality as a very possible game-changer for everything – from experiential learning through the marketplace. This VR technology receives my first official commendation for wearables and I see it introducing itself in a productive way in 2016.
Paige Francis is CIO of Fairfield University.
Flexible IT Infrastructure for Any Device
By Thomas Hoover
2016 will be the year that technology comes together to create an ultimate educational experience for students. That means that we can join our existing technology with our students’ devices to enhance the educational experience. Mobile devices, tablets, laptops can all be used to access course materials and training for the class. Course material will now be device agnostic content. The professors are not dependent on a single device or platform they can create classes that are not bound to a stagnant curriculum.
For example, IT at UTC is working with professors in the Occupational and Physical Therapy Departments to incorporate newer technology into the rooms of a recently acquired building. In one of the labs, there will be cameras located above cadaver tables that will allow students to connect their devices (phone, tablets, laptops, etc) to the classroom audio visual technology. The dissections and audio will be streamed to an adjacent classroom. Students will no longer be tied to a table and a cable for active learning. Utilizing current technology with all devices is a great way to leverage campus learning for the future.
Students have the ability to do unparalleled research on any device. Professors are using big data and fast internet and intranet speed to create learning experiences 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This is an opportunity to create something that will enhance every aspect of their educational experience. In order to be successful the university must not only utilize resources that are available in the community but also invest in core infrastructure. Wireless and wired connectivity, routers, and switches are all key places. Students can have the newest fastest devices, but campus must have the infrastructure built and maintained to support the new systems. That is why IT is like a Magic 8 Ball. We have core infrastructure in the inside. The questions are what students bring to campus; devices. They can choose anything they want and it shakes up our technology. We have to be nimble and flexible with a strong infrastructure to redesign and think of new utilizations to support learning outcomes.
Thomas Hoover is Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
(Next page: Predictions on tech maturation, people, mLearning and pedagogy)