As technology advances and the economy declines, campus leaders become more aware of the importance of using website analytics to make decisions. As recently as three years ago, administrators were not even thinking about analytics, says Phillip Ice, vice president of research and development for the American Public University System. “Now they understand the need and know they have to pay attention to it because of the economic climate.” Everyone from the provost level up realize they need to understand what contributes to a successful web presence, so they can better manage budgets.
Because it’s easy to get overwhelmed initially by analytics, Ice recommends starting with “rudimentary info about abandonment and navigation. Once you prove it at that basic level, you’ll get buy-in for deeper diving.”
He is involved with a project for the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s Cooperative for Educational Technologies examining data related to retention and learning outcomes for online students.
“When we take away the emotional layer and visceral reaction, it is true that there is no difference mathematically from achieving a learning outcome and achieving a point of sale,” he says. “If you’re on Zappos looking for shoes, the same search patterns can be applied to finding learning data.”
Similar factors are at play for how a student navigates a college home page and selects a school, he says.
For the learning outcomes research, he is using Omniture SiteCatalyst, which provides heat map data on where the mouse moves. This allows him to see how long the students are on task, and how it matches with instructional design flow. Based on a retention model, “we can now tell which student is likely to disenroll and why, but it’s only 84 percent accurate. I’m starting to look at the other analytics tools [available] to get a higher degree of accuracy and provide individualized learning assets from the data.”
If analytics can be used to retain an online student, just imagine what it can do for getting prospective students to apply.