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From research tool to experience management engine: Qualtrics celebrates 20 years in education

This year, Qualtrics celebrates its 20th anniversary, with a tribute to the industry where it all started: education. Over the past two decades, Qualtrics has grown from a business that provides data-gathering tools for academic researchers to the leader and creator of the experience management category, transforming the way customers and employees interact with over 16,750 organizations worldwide.

Back in 2002, a professor had an idea to improve the way people and institutions conduct academic research. He realized the Internet could enable the collection of accurate data more quickly and cheaply than traditional pen and paper methods or expensive research firms. From his family basement, that professor — Scott Smith — along with his two sons and a friend, founded Qualtrics.

Education is at the heart of what we do as a business and has been essential to the creation and growth of the experience management category, as students have taken their Qualtrics skills to industries spanning the private and public sectors around the globe. Now, nearly a quarter of a million people list “Qualtrics” as a skill on LinkedIn, and more than 5.6 million people list “experience management” as a skill — demonstrating the company’s influence on the world of work from HR to IT and beyond.

Qualtrics is working together with K-12 schools and higher education institutions to build a stronger future in support of students and to drive competitiveness through research and discovery. Educators trust Qualtrics — not only for external research but to look inward, measuring and improving experiences across campus for students, faculty and staff. Here’s how education institutions have been part of our journey.

A better way to conduct academic research

In 2002, Angela Lee, a marketing professor at the Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, was looking for alternatives to the online data collection system she was using in her marketing research class that required teaching html coding to her MBA students. When she encountered Qualtrics, it was just what she needed to be able to collect data easily at scale, and she became the company’s first customer, showing Qualtrics to her MBA and doctoral students and convincing administrators that the whole school should use it.

“I kept telling my colleagues, this is really useful. You can use it for academic research, but also across the school any time you need to do polling to gather information to help make decisions,” Lee said. “It was an easy sell.”

Twenty years later, Lee still uses Qualtrics for all her consumer psychology research, including award-winning projects on self-regulation and persuasion, but also for day-to-day information gathering, from scheduling meetings and finding out dietary restrictions to students’ reflections on readings and course evaluations.

With its ability to simplify data collection and seamlessly pull results into easy-to-use dashboards, Qualtrics has been used to fuel research projects around the world — from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study about how learning where tax dollars are spent minimizes political polarization to a report from the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne about how men with facial hair tend to value traditional gender roles. With the tagline, “sophisticated enough for a PhD, but easy enough for an intern,” Qualtrics helps reveal truth and insights about human nature and the world we live in.

Experience management: the next frontier for education

By the early 2010s, Qualtrics had evolved into a multiproduct company helping organizations measure and improve experiences for customers and employees. Leading universities that once used Qualtrics to look outward and form scientific conclusions about the world, are now using it to look at their own systems and programs and make data-driven decisions to enhance student and staff experiences.

The University of Minnesota started its first university-wide Qualtrics license for academic research back in 2012. One year later, in 2013, they moved the administration of the Student Experience in the Research Survey (SERU), a comprehensive, multi-institution survey administered to undergraduate and graduate students that provides administrators with unique insights into what’s working well, and not so well, in classrooms, labs and campus life. More recently, the school expanded its adoption of employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX) tools to improve staff and student satisfaction by gaining new insights, enacting timely and effective interventions and increasing overall sense of belonging and success.

As part of a strategic plan to create a better student environment on campus, Washington State University is committed to improving the entire student lifecycle from application to alumni engagement. Due to the ongoing mental and physical challenges students are facing because of the pandemic, the school is focused on improving its student health services, making it easier to find information about what’s available, book appointments and access the right kind of help. Becoming a more recent customer of Qualtrics in 2022, Washington State University aims to meet students where they are and take action on critical feedback to boost well-being.

K-12 schools, like San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) are also leading the way with experience management. In addition to supporting a comprehensive response to COVID with vaccination and testing, SAISD has used Qualtrics to provide better social and emotional support to students through an assessment of its guidance and counseling services as well as to track and improve campus security measures.

Reimagining the education experience

Looking ahead, our goal is to help institutions fully embrace the discipline of experience management. This means listening at each key moment in the end-to-end student journey so leaders can understand the drivers and barriers to progress, and so faculty and staff know when and how to intervene. It means ensuring employees feel heard, valued and empowered to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. And for researchers, it means providing the best-in-class tools and resources to make breakthrough discoveries – both at the global and institutional levels.

We’re so grateful for the pioneering institutions that have been part of Qualtrics’ journey to bring experience management to the world. In this momentous year, we celebrate those that are dedicated to improving the education experience for all.

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Qualtrics // Experience Management

Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the experience management category, is a cloud-native software platform that empowers organizations to deliver exceptional experiences and build deep relationships with their customers and employees.

With insights from Qualtrics, organizations can identify and resolve the greatest friction points in their business, retain and engage top talent, and bring the right products and services to market. Nearly 20,000 organizations around the world use Qualtrics’ advanced AI to listen, understand, and take action. Qualtrics uses its vast universe of experience data to form the largest database of human sentiment in the world. Qualtrics is co-headquartered in Provo, Utah and Seattle.

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