Bridging the gap between business and education

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Business Studies

It’s no secret that Further Education (FE) is undergoing a major change. Colleges have been freed from local authority control and empowered to operate as independent companies. In turn, funding has been cut and they have been forced to generate increased income from the private sector.

Consequently, many have cut costs in the form of mergers, restructures of management teams, specialising in certain subject areas, and the sale of assets. Many colleges have also hired senior professionals from the private sector to see if they can drive and manage costs down even further.

However such moves, exacerbated by the new apprenticeship levy further handing control over to businesses, have prompted concerns that the FE sector is becoming less about the quality of teaching and value added to students but more about the bottom line.

Securing a competitive edge through smarter market intelligence

While it has always been necessary for FE providers to collect, generate and disseminate marketing information, its effective use has never been so vital. After years of underfunding, FE colleges have been further hit by recent government spending cuts and many are facing closure.

With colleges competing against each other for a smaller pool of students, due to the growth of academies and private sector providers, the access to and use of market intelligence has never been such a high priority. Yet whilst they may have more access to data than ever before, making sense of it can seem a mammoth task – and one which the timetable just doesn’t allow for.

With most college data tied up in multiple systems, the process of pulling it all together is manual and laborious, using up time that could be better spent on more lucrative pursuits. This is where a college-specific dashboard solution, such as Active Dashboards from Dynistics, can help. A marketing dashboard provides valuable insight that can be converted into improved enrolment numbers. It can help colleges understand target audiences inform how well potential students respond to email campaigns and identify which emails get the most click throughs, which ultimately lead to enrolments. And, with real-time data, marketing approaches can be modified to ensure that marketing activity is as effective as possible.

Of course, it’s not just down to marketing. Positive results in enrolment, attrition rates and achieved outcomes are fundamental in any FE college hitting its targets and receiving and maintaining funding. Good quality data insights are essential in guiding a retention strategy, monitoring students’ progress, assessing course effectiveness, directing decisions and resource allocations, and dashboards provide an interactive real-time breakdown of all admissions and enrolment data.

With under-subscribed courses and the associated lack of financial viability posing a real issue for colleges, dashboards can help them monitor how the number of applications compares with their target in real-time, and adjust their marketing efforts to help redress the balance. Staff can monitor student numbers on different courses and identify available spaces, potentially bringing in thousands of pounds of extra funding. This helps colleges to stay competitive, set priorities in terms of local skills shortages and maximise income from apprenticeships.

Similarly, geomapping enables a college’s admissions team to see, at-a-glance, which other colleges and universities it is up against. This enables the college to align its courses, marketing resource and investment to ‘fill the gaps’ and ensure the best possible take-up of places, delivering on demonstrated need, rather than predictions.

By using dashboards to manage enrolment data, colleges can maintain a competitive edge at a time when private apprenticeship schemes are attracting more and more applicants. If FE colleges know exactly where they stand at any given moment, they are better placed to ensure they receive a steady flow of applicants despite the increased competition.

Monitoring students throughout their academic lifecycle

Student retention is equally essential for running a financially successful college. Data visualisation provides an easy, innovative and practical way to help FE establishments refine and better manage their courses to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of teaching.

By merging information about students, such as prior qualifications and educational progress, tutors can review their teaching subjects and methods accordingly. This might lead to developing new course models, integrating modules and ultimately improving student performance, satisfaction and retention. It also helps identify students who are disengaging at a much earlier stage, so tutors can intervene before the situation escalates, improving the likely good of course completion.

Tailored tutoring for every student

Greater engagement with data and analytics offers many benefits for FE students. It can lead to adaptive learning, providing students with individually tailored tutoring and, arguably, greater success. Rather than one size fits all, students can be directed to learning materials based on their previous interactions with, and understanding of, related content and tasks. The more a student interacts with the course material, the more the software adapts to the student’s learning strengths and weaknesses — modifying the teaching method accordingly.

By delivering a streamlined interface that connects students with the functions used most frequently, dashboards can deliver the key metrics for colleges and universities to pinpoint exactly where they need to focus their attention to put student progress, achievement and satisfaction first.

As the battle for students becomes greater, consistent and comparable data in real-time is increasingly essential to not only gain a competitive edge, but to deliver students greater personalisation along their learning journey. Colleges that embrace dashboards will find they make smarter decisions, more quickly, helping them to attract and retain students and, ultimately, remain viable.

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