The media are quick to put the spotlight on any colleges that are arguably seen as being too competitive in its marketing techniques. Colleges quickly face criticism for having touting for business on a rival’s ‘patch’. Whether a college is in the right or not remains a contentious issue but it highlights the stress that colleges are under to not only attract new students, but convert these to enrolments.
And the pressure doesn’t stop there. While schools and colleges already receive 17.5 per cent less funding for pupils who repeat an A-level year, there is currently no financial penalty if students drop out and transfer elsewhere. However, colleges could soon be financially sanctioned if they sign students up to inappropriate A-level courses that they later abandon.
This has forced colleges to put more emphasis on the way they track student attendance and subsequent retention. Positive results in enrolment, attrition rates and achieved outcomes are fundamental to ensuring that a college hits its targets, achieves retention, receives and maintains its funding. So the question for all colleges should be whether they are able to access the data which provides the details about these metrics? Even if they can, it is a time intensive process to have confidence in the results? Good quality data insights are naturally essential in guiding a retention strategy, monitoring students’ progress, assessing course effectiveness, directing decisions and resource allocations.
Active Dashboards, a college-specific dashboard solution, provides an interactive real-time break-down of all admissions and enrolment data – all visualised in an easy-to-read dashboard. With the problem of under subscribed courses and the associated lack of financial viability, a real issue for colleges, dashboards can help colleges keep track of how the number of applications compares with their target in real-time and provides the opportunity to adjust marketing efforts to help redress the balance. Staff can closely monitor the number of students on different courses and identify space for new recruitment, 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 funding for apprenticeships.
Active Dashboards also provides colleges with the ability to monitor trends around enrolment by demographics – presenting a clear overview of student demographics which can be easily filtered by faculty or course; as well as providing comparisons around admissions data and identifying potential areas for improvement.
They overcome some easy to recognize, common problems that most colleges tell us they face:
Instead of wading through numerous spreadsheets, staff are able to get the information that they need almost immediately. This centralisation of information within the dashboard and ease of access meant that all staff can access the same information, even when working remotely. Instead of gauging responses in the classroom or marking papers, student responses and aggregate data are continually updated into a teacher dashboard. Patterns emerge which highlight at-risk as well as high-performing students, helping the college to pinpoint exactly where they need to focus their attention.
By merging information known about individuals in advance, such as their prior qualifications, with data accumulated about their educational progress, predictive analytics give tutors the ability to identify students who are disengaging at a much earlier stage, meaning they can intervene before the situation escalates and improving the likely success of their students.
Knowing how students are performing in this way helps lecturers to understand what they are ready for and capable of and review their teaching subjects and methods accordingly. This could lead to developing new course models, integrating modules where there are units in common and ultimately improving student performance, satisfaction and retention.
However despite the rewards, it’s worrying that nearly half of UK HE institutions still don’t utilise their learner data. At a time when competition for students has never been greater, surely the monitoring of their college experience and how it can be improved, should be at the centre of the curriculum? We’d love to hear your views on why this continues to be such a barrier for so many colleges.