Optimizing Student Life Using Visual Engagement Analytics

Each year budgets are drafted and funds are allocated to departments, clubs, and organizations to provide students with the opportunities to become involved on and off campus. Campus administrators must use assessment to show how student learning and involvement are measured through anecdotal and quantitative data. However, a majority of institutions do not have the ability to capture and organize student involvement data in an easy and efficient way.

This is where data analytics comes in. Many institutions still use student sign-in sheets with a pen and paper to keep track of students, or worse take a quick head count to determine an event’s success.

How do you know which students are showing up to events? How can you conduct assessment without knowing the attendees?

Creating reports with students participation data and demographic information allows student affairs professionals and students leaders to have a better snapshot of engaged students, successful events, and if student learning outcomes were met.

Additionally, data analytics provide valuable statistics to help with effective budgeting practices. One of the best ways to do this is to formulate strategic questions to test your institution’s assumptions. Measuring an institution’s balance between co-curricular entertainment and learning is important to improve programming practices among all campus constituents.

The big question is: How do you optimize student life using visual engagement analytics?

Visualize Data

Data can become messy, hard to understand, and often overwhelming. Visualizing data through charts and graphs helps communicate the information in a clear way while showcasing pertinent data with your department or organization. Sharing student engagement data is a powerful way to highlight stories of involvement in a way that makes numbers more digestible.

The creation of consistent assessment for campus programming such as surveys and polls, helps to understand data collected over time. The department, organization, or advisor can determine how to effectively market to students and analyze student behavior.

For Example:

At the end of the semester, a Director of Student Life is able to present a report to their leadership team including information like program attendance, types of students who were engaged, and areas in which they could improve for the next semester. Real-time data analytics allows for this Director to easily pull statistics from each event, making that end of semester or end of year report easy to compile.

Investing in analytics allows for the creation of segmented reports that are presented in a way that are easy to read and understood by student leaders and professionals alike.

Presence is a platform that collects data from campus events and creates segmented analytical reports that provides insight on events and attendees like major, birth year, location, gender or any other demographics an institution would like to include.

Identify Trends Over-Time

Accurate data challenges formed opinions made about student involvement. Collecting data allows to take a micro and macro approach to assessment by identifying trends of the student body. The process of mapping student involvement allows to better understand the humans that inhabit the environment.

The art of pinpointing event attributes becomes easier while professionals have the ability to streamline efforts across campus that produce successful outcomes. Who doesn’t want to boast about data to supervisors, departments, or future students?

For Example:

A Residence Director would like to identify students from their first-year residence hall who attended all Welcome Week events. They are able to look into attendance analytics and identify the first-year student population who attended specific events. Identifying first-year student engagement during Welcome Week may help determine programming efforts in relation to first-year student retention. The data will also provide insight to the Resident Director into event attributes like changing the location to increase attendance and future engagement.

Develop Forecasts & Projections

Analytics are essentially the crystal ball of student affairs. Identifying trends over time helps with future predictions. Anecdotal data should not be replaced, but it should be back with verified quantitative data. Analytics provides insight that allows student leaders and student affairs professionals to develop a forecast for the future.

When student affairs professionals show clarity with intentional programming, it may be easier to harbor collaboration among departments and students. Proactive programming grounded in data boosts creativity and, in turn, creates a culture of accountability.

For Example:

Showcase analytics that reflect on milestones and goals in a common area in the office to motivate student leaders and staff. Be transparent with data. Sharing clear and accurate reports of data to other entities on campus creates a dynamic environment founded upon continuous improvement and collaboration.

Analytics allows you to create a projections and plans based of past events. Adjustments and optimization can occur when you have the data to inform you of what is going right and wrong leading up to and during your events.

Optimize Marketing

Analytics can provide insight into different ways to reach students. Enhancing engagement efforts requires optimizing marketing strategies. Determine if you’re reaching and engaging your desired audience by learning more about your organization’s marketing efforts. Receiving feedback about methods of marketing from students is important to pair with programming data. This allows students and professionals to see a larger picture of student involvement.

For Example:

Education University organizes a leadership series filled with guest speakers and workshops for students on campus. The Division of Student Life has a goal to reach a broad range of students both on and off campus. After the first event in the series, analytics show that there is poor student attendance from the College of Engineering.

There are a few ways analytics may help administrators fill in the gaps about why these students did not attend:

Professionals may opt to enhance marketing initiatives to better attract these students. Feedback from analytics may inform them that more advertising is needed in the engineering building. Additionally, administrators can observe trends at past successful engineering events and identify specific attributes like food, location, and event type to compare events and understand why students were unable to attend.

There are a number of reasons why students do not show up to events, and analytics can help provide answers of why particular students are not involved.

Allocate Funds Accurately

Data becomes a vehicle to justify funding for programs, clubs, and organizations. Storytelling through data is an effective way to accurately allocate funding and plan for the future. As an advisor or student leader, blocking out the time to review a realistic budget for the year helps with making sound decision-making in regards to funding. The information about cost per person at each event is easy to extract from analytics to help this process.

For Example:

In the fall semester, the Technology Club noticed an increased amount of sophomore students attending their events and the organization’s members doubled. Due to the popularity of their organization, they decide to ask the Student Government Association for more funding to account for the growth. During their presentation to the SGA, the Technology Club President presents data justifying the need for a larger budget based off data collected at their past events.

Check I’m Here allows SGA and other student organizations to make better decisions surrounding allocation of funding by supporting anecdotal data with quantitative evidence.

Comment below if your campus has explored ways to optimize student life by using analytics to improve engagement. Learn how Presence’s platform can help you map student involvement through analytics now!


Anthony Freese

About the author: Anthony Freese (he/him) is formerly the Director of Marketing at Modern Campus Presence, the complete student engagement platform. Learn how we can help get your students involved.