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What is the student experience?

5 min read
From colleges to universities, more and more academic institutions are looking at the student experience as a key differentiator in the battle to attract the best applicants. But what is the student experience and how can you improve it?

For a long time now, students have looked at the data when deciding which academic institution to choose – course ratings, results and employment prospects after graduating have all been key factors in their decisions for decades.

But we live in a new world, one where a prospective student is looking for more than just good grades and a job at the end of their course. They’re looking for a complete experience.

Comparison sites have caught up too, and prospective students can now compare everything from the quality of food on campus to the cleanliness of the accomodation and the range of sports and social clubs on offer.

And so it follows that academic institutions are becoming increasingly focused on monitoring the complete experience and optimising it to help:

  • Increase yield rates from application to admission
  • Improve learning outcomes by turning course evaluations into improvements
  • Drive advocacy from students from an improved campus experience
  • Boost alumni engagement

It starts by gathering feedback at every touchpoint

The good news for academic institutions is that they are perhaps better placed than almost any other organisation to start gathering that feedback too.

After all, we know that the younger generation is not just more willing to give feedback, they expect to be able to do it.

They’ve grown up in a world where feedback is everywhere, and it’s instantaneous. From an early age, they’ve been able to instantly like, share and comment on everything from their friends Facebook posts to their hotel reviews on Tripadvisor and their videos on YouTube.

It’s not a major leap then to get their feedback on the things that matter most in their experience as students whether it’s their accommodation, their course, tutors or even the health and fitness facilities on campus.

Gathering feedback is the easy part, but designing a feedback system that allows you to really understand the complete experience requires careful planning to ensure you’re covering every touchpoint.

Journey mapping is a great place to start – by understanding the journeys students go through, and the different stages where you can get their feedback will help you identify pain points along the way and start prioritising actions to improve them.

Learn more about journey mapping

Analyse the data to understand what matters most

Gathering data is the start – using it to identify where and how you can improve to have the greatest impact is how you start to craft student experiences that reap rewards for the institution.

There’s a whole host of analytical tools you can use here from key driver analysis to multivariate regression and text analytics.

See our guides to statistical analysis

Each one has a role to play in identifying and prioritising improvements. They key to getting it right is to be able to analyse all your data together.

It’s no use having course feedback in one system, accommodation feedback in another and comments on clubs and societies stored somewhere else. In a siloed system, it’s almost impossible to identify which actions will have the biggest impact.

When you collate that data, and bring it into a single system, you can analyse it as a complete data set and find the most significant drivers of the experience, both good and bad, as well as the impact of each one on the overall experience.

This lifecycle approach allows you to see the student experience as one, holistic journey and spot trends in the data to really hone in on what matters most.

For example, you might find your ratings for clubs and societies are low and your scores for accommodation cleanliness are in the mid-range. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that you need to improve your clubs and societies offering.

But when you look at it as one data set with a tool like multivariate regression analysis – it may sound complicated, but it’s just 3 clicks in Qualtrics – you could find that actually, a 1 point increase in your accommodation cleanliness score would have a bigger impact on the overall experience.

And to take it further, with text analysis you can dig deeper into different topics to spot themes, sentiment and trends to identify what’s driving those scores. So you can do root cause analysis to really get to the heart of the issue, and start putting actions in place to optimise the experience for your students.

Measuring and monitoring the experience has never been easier, with the Qualtrics Experience Management Platform™ you can collect feedback at every touchpoint. And with the predictive analytics and intelligent systems that are constantly learning from the data and suggesting improvements, turning that data into improvement actions has never been so easy.

Start your student experience journey with Qualtrics today