(AAS 2018 Recap) How Outcomes-Oriented Leaders Use Advanced Analytics in Higher Education

The Advanced Analytics Summit (AAS) took place earlier this month in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for its inaugural year. Needless to say, the event was a huge success!

Over 30 schools were in attendance for the two-day event. It consisted of three speakers as well as numerous panelists from institutions implementing advanced analytics at their institutions.

It’s no secret higher education is facing several complex issues including changing demographics, declining population, decreasing graduation rates, rising student debt - the list goes on.

What is most apparent in seeing this event actually occur is the growing community of progressive thinkers and pragmatic professionals who are looking to solve problems, adapt to change, and drive results at their institutions.

There were plenty of fresh ideas, practical advice, and impactful examples that came from event panelists and participants, including:

Doing more of the same, will lead to disruption

During Othot CEO, Andy Hannah’s speech, he explained disruption is not always visible right way. If higher education does not change, they run the risk of being left behind as we’ve seen in the corporate world. The antidote for avoiding disruption is transformation.

Not transforming could lead to what Clayton Christensen mentions in his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma in which he predicts that “50% of the 4,000 colleges and universities will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years.”

That prediction is extreme and perhaps hard to believe for some folks, but it should be given respect. Luckily, there is a solution to adapt and not only survive, but to thrive.

Advanced analytics is a choice, and a critical ingredient to change outcomes

Advanced analytics is a path of choice. If executed properly, there are many fruits to bear from this endeavor.

In fact, we’ve discussed previously how more analytically mature organizations perform better across industries because they increasingly translate data into intelligence about their customer.

Higher education has the same opportunity to adopt advanced analytics to identify and address problems to produce a better outcome by understanding students at the individual level.

However, this doesn’t happen on its own. The only way to create impact from insight is through action.

To ensure proper action is taken requires outcomes-oriented leadership.

So what does that mean? Keep reading below.

How the Outcomes-Oriented Leader Uses Advanced Analytics in Higher Ed

Focus on the Individual

Most schools are paying attention to the aggregate. But what they need to be focusing on is the individual student.

Students enrolling at higher ed institutions are changing. We need to change how we target and communicate with prospective students effectively.


Jamie Hansard from Texas Tech University, and a customer of Othot’s, advised the audience to increase conversion rates, you must ask the right questions. That way, you’re allowing the data to indicate the most effective human resources and tactics to engage students at the individual level.

When properly harnessed, data allows you to mold an organic, holistic strategy with your admissions staff to take a path that fits the individual through different recruiting tactics such as telecounseling, student driven counselor high school visits, targeted recruitment events, and on-campus visits. Understanding how these activities come together is what creates that more personalized experience.

That’s how predictive to prescriptive analytics enables you to humanize the data by collaborating with your team.

As a result, it’s possible to take advantage of first contact tactics and the subsequent touches that make the biggest impact on an individual that makes them enroll at your institution.

Stop Losing the Students You Shouldn’t Be Losing

When it comes to retention, did you know many of the indicators of losing a student are apparent before they step on campus?

By using advanced analytics to identify the students and their indicators, you’re able to proactively create a strategy to re-recruit your freshman to become sophomores from day one.

So what should higher ed institutions be doing to fix this?

First, don’t be reactive!

John Campbell, Vice Provost at West Virginia University, stated during his panel, “Being reactive, or waiting until midterms to identify these students do not work.” Meaning, if you wait for these indicators to become a reality, odds are you’ve already lost that student.

Second, personalize the student journey.

Every student, including ones with indicators that they won’t persist, can have a tailored experience to spur success. Advanced analytics can help you with that.

Work with your faculty to raise expectations and make sure the student is involved in the right programs as soon as possible. As a result, the student’s expectations will improve as well.

Pro tip from Rick Burnette (Florida State University): Use advanced analytics to reimagine the campus experience for students.

Today’s student is tech-savvy, so make sure you’re creating an experience based on their actions on campus, social media activity, and calendar and establish the appropriate digital communications to inform the student when the next movie night or recommend a pizza place that’s close to campus.

As a result, you’re able to create passion profiles for student cohorts that personalize the individual’s campus experience.

Check out Florida State’s vision for reimagining its campus.

Use Advanced Analytics to a Create Meaningful Definition of Student Success

Student success is much more than just increasing graduation rates.

Your goal for student success should be to focus on the entire lifecycle - admissions, enrollment, retention, graduation, post-graduation and alumni.

Advanced analytics can help spearhead this endeavor to ensure you’re connecting students with the best programs to support them to increase likelihood your institution achieves this goal.

How do you accomplish this?

The only way to improve the student journey is getting data to the get the right people involved. Doing so, will create the necessary personalized plan in place for the individual not just for graduation but post grad and alumni success as well.

Pro tip Rachel Hernandez, University of Texas at Austin: The models you should be creating to improve student outcomes should (1) predict cohort outcomes, (2) calculate individual requirements to measure progress, and (3) measure the performance of first-year programs and reevaluate and assess yearly.

Developing the student holistically, not just academically inside and outside the classroom. Advanced analytics is really in its infancy stages in helping schools to look at a more complete picture of its students. Mitigating student debt and financial viability is an example of another dimension to consider more heavily.

How Advanced Analytics Truly Drives Change in Higher Education

The one overwhelming theme mentioned throughout the day was data doesn’t change outcomes by itself.

Data alone doesn’t drive the change. The people using the data change the outcomes.

Advanced analytics can help your institution identify what will happen and how to make it happen, but you must bring it to life.

As Marc Harding, Vice Provost of Enrollment at the University of Pittsburgh, said, “Analytics is the art and the science of acting in the right moment to nudge the stream futurity toward or away from a particular outcome.”

This occurs at every stage of the student lifecycle – admissions, enrollment, retention, graduation.

Whether you’re giving your admissions staff the necessary tools or providing recommendations to advisors, it takes a village to harness the data and create the personal journey for every student – that’s outcomes-based leadership.