Survey: Analytics ‘revolution’ slow to reach recruitment

Only one in five schools used analytics to improve online advertising.

Campus technology leaders are using their massive reams of data to improve their schools’ websites, social media presences, and marketing strategies—but many campuses aren’t using analytics to optimize online and offline advertising.

“The 2012 State of Social Media and Web Analytics in #highered,” an annual report compiled and released by Karine Joly, a web marketing official and editor of, showed that colleges have bolstered their use of analytics since 2010, but there are still considerable gaps in how schools can use analytics beyond traditional areas.

Only 12 percent of campuses surveyed said they didn’t use analytics at all, down from 15 percent in 2010, according to the report, and seven in 10 schools used insights from analytics to improve their college’s website.

Still, Joly said higher education is a long way from exploring the potential of analytics in every facet of campus decision making.

“I had high hopes that we would revolutionize higher education,” Joly said. “This hasn’t been the revolution I had hoped for,” although the third annual report showed “positive trends.”

The survey response showed an uptick in colleges tracking mobile web traffic as more schools devote resources to maintaining a separate site designed for smart phones and computer tablets.

In 2011, 38 percent of campuses tracked mobile web traffic. That number jumped to 47 percent this year.

Joly said that increase is important as prospective students flock to campus mobile sites.

Fifty-two percent of prospective college students said they had viewed a school’s website on a mobile device in 2011—more than double the percentage from 2010.

Forty-eight percent of those students said the mobile site experience bettered their view of the campus, according to a survey conducted by higher-education consulting company Noel-Levitz and the National Research Center for College & University Admissions.

Six in 10 respondents to the survey said they spend less than two hours a week monitoring analytics, and one in four said they spend upwards of five hours a week on analytics, according to Joly’s research.

“The higher-ed analytics needle is moving slowly, but definitely in the right direction,” she said.

Only one in five schools used analytics to improve online advertising, while 17 percent used analytics data to track offline advertising.

Seventeen percent said they used analytics not to bolster the campus website, advertising efforts, or outreach campaigns to stakeholders, but simply to “make my boss happy.”

Google Analytics was the tracking mechanism of choice in higher education, with 97 percent using the search giant’s program, a 1 percent gain from 2011. Six in 10 schools used Facebook Insights, the social media site’s analytics program.

Keeping an eye on web video analytics is still a rarity in higher education, according to the survey. Four in 10 campuses said they used YouTube Insights in 2012, an 8 percent increase from last year.

The growing role of campus analytics was on display in April at the Business Analytics Online Education Conference, where IBM tapped a number of college administrators to share their experiences with predictive analytics, and how the trend is helping to improve campus operations.

“Predictive analytics plays a very big role in terms of enrollment,” said Jimmy Jung, assistant vice president for enrollment management at the College at Brockport, part of the State University of New York system.

Using historical data, retention and graduation rates, application counts, and demographic data, Brockport analysts are “able to predict earlier and react to an increasingly competitive environment,” which Jung said has resulted in an increase in campus applications.

Brockport staffers also have use predictive analytics to examine the impact that the campus’s current financial aid strategy has on enrollment, in order to objectively decide what is and is not working.

This is Brockport’s first year using predictive analytics to drive decisions, especially where recruitment and enrollment are concerned.

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