If you work at or alongside a Higher Education Institute (HEI), you’ll know it’s a workplace that has been shaped by a long, long process of decision-making.
Both new and long-standing HEIs have made countless decisions on how to organize, run, and improve the institution’s operations. From the executive to instructional level, HEIs are influenced by the feedback that an institution has been able to gather, plus any stance on what feedback is worth pursuing.
Like a car’s headlights at night, the institution’s progression has been limited both by what data it can detect with traditional tools, and its own inbuilt trajectory – which is often deeply institutional.
In the modern context, HEIs operate in a fast-moving, highly competitive, and changing environment. Making forward-thinking decisions is more crucial than ever, as student retention and engagement become increasingly vital. The institution that repositions towards previous data blind spots will illuminate the landscape in which the student experience now occurs.
Supported by the student voice, an institution can progress, decision by decision, down a more considered, student-focused route. Below, we’ve listed some benefits that this approach can yield.
- Better identification with student needs
Every student lives a complex, on-going set of experiences – the overall student experience – which directly influence their performance at a HEI. Much reported feedback may stand outside the traditional focus of a university’s instruction and administration concerns. The institution that broadens their feedback gathering, from focused headlights to a bigger picture, will be better equipped to visualize the on-going student experience – and craft policy that considers this previously unheeded information.
- Tackling the mysterious open-ended comments
Traditionally, open-ended feedback has been viewed as one of the most challenging categories for an HEI to engage with productively. Categorizing unstructured student comments, and then positioning them as data that an HEI can use is made far easier with the power of a comprehensive Experience Management platform like Blue. Automating these processes ensures an extra stream of information that can considerably improve an institution’s decision-making prowess.
- Drilling deeper into insights
Drilling into student feedback is an important challenge for an institution’s data-gathering system. Once a sentiment has been identified, the depth of its impact, and how this is reflected or replicated among an entire student body can unveil considerable revelations for HEIs, and open new pathways to informed decision-making. The addition of layers of up-to-date metadata to this process paints an even more accurate picture for HEIs looking to support students who are all experiencing their own student journeys – while bearing in mind the overall composure and needs of the general student body. A solution like BlueML utilize proprietary machine learning algorithms to effectively parse and sort free-form student feedback for meaning and sentiment – delivering these kinds of deep insights.
- Reducing lingering bias
Older feedback-gathering techniques employed in the academic space have historically been known to carry a seed of bias. Traditionally, these approaches were limited by focusing on the abilities of the “average” student, and assumed definitions of what information was useful to the institution. By expanding decision support to incorporate the diverse motivations, abilities, and perspectives of the entire student body, those lingering human biases that exist in some feedback systems can be surpassed – with better accuracy being delivered to support overall institutional decision-making.
- Better responsiveness to the ‘Big Picture’
Responsiveness has been a watchword for the Higher Education sector over the past year, as it has pivoted to deal with a substantial set of new challenges. Transitioning to an expanded decision support posture means that a HEI can enjoy a better view of the landscape that their students inhabit. Continuous listening tools like Bluepulse can act as a collision avoidance system in this role, providing a real-time connection and feedback function if an issue arises and begins to impact student performance or student retention.
- The potential for improvement over time
By expanding the decision-making process to consider new streams of data, an institution will have begun the process of realizing better responsiveness and perception of the student experience. Some insights may result in relatively quick decisions, but as time progresses, and the level of data increases, the HEI will chart its improvement and the impact that this improved intelligence provides. This can act as a motivator, as the accumulation of data provides a rearview perspective and delivers context to institutional decisions’ success. Ultimately, the initial benefits are a signpost to a future that promises even better insights.
Modern HEIs operate in a societal and educational context that has advanced rapidly in recent years. The expectation now rests on the institution to reorient towards managing the student experience, and providing highly responsive decision making that takes all applicable data into account.
This is achieved by making administrative and instructional decisions that resonate with and address student sentiments. Doing so will better realize an environment where the student experience has satisfaction at its core.
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