Gartner Highlights Strategic Nudge Tech in Higher Education

New Gartner Report Shows Discourse Analytics’ Place in the Data-Driven Academy

Discourse Analytics’ technology Gartner’s recent report “Top 10 Strategic Technologies Impacting Higher Education in 2019” calls out a series of business challenges and metatrends that prove Discourse Analytics is uniquely positioned to provide value across the institution as colleges and universities pursue their transformations into a Data-Driven Academy. 5 of the 10 technology metatrends and solutions that university CIO’s are embracing as they leverage data to empower education are core components of the Discourse Analytics technology stack.

Importance of Personalized Communications

Universities face a plethora of problems as they seek to attract the best students, convert admittees to Freshmen, minimize Melt, and get new students acclimated, to declare majors, succeed, graduate, and get good jobs. Each of those challenges along the student life-cycle can be facilitated and improved by making the appropriate resources and opportunities available, and successfully persuading students to take advantage of them.

Compelling students to take action, though, can be a significant challenge. Personalized communications – right message, right channel, right time – can provide useful prompts that help move students through the inertia of university and academic life, and help them complete the necessary milestones to transition along their life-cycle journeys. But, the “right” part of that message is more than demographic- and trigger-based text engagement.

Understanding the student in a holistic capacity, and their touch-points across the campus, provides the data set that lays the foundation to identify candidates for individual messages and calls to action and select the appropriate message. What is required then is a technology platform that can leverage that data set to draw actionable insights and prescribe those messages.

Technology within the Data-Driven Academy

Gartner highlights the metatrend of the data-driven academy and shows the connection between the individual trends of:

  • AI conversational interface
  • Predictive analytics
  • Nudge tech
  • Hybrid integration platforms
  • Cross life-cycle CRM
  • Reinventing credentials
  • Online differentiation
  • Lifelong learning
  • Competition for students
  • New business models

Nudging within the university

“Nudge Tech” provides a mechanism to “personalize messages at scale” and drive performance against each of the goals within the student’s life-cycle. What it fails to mention is that Nudge Tech is actually a combination of several of the other metatrends described – Hybrid Integration Platforms, Predictive Analytics, Cross-Life-Cycle CRM, and can include AI Conversational Interfaces.

What is unique to the Discourse Analytics value proposition is its ability to map data as “signals” from across the university to attitudinal leanings in order to provide a foundation to make its predictions. Through a series of integrations, Discourse Analytics receives data to its webhook from application add-ins, tools like Azure Data Factory, or pushed from the university’s Enterprise Service Bus. Discourse Analytics leverages signals from systems such as Learning Management System (LMS) logins, homework submissions, grade and progress data from the Student Information System (SIS), gymnasion check-ins and library wifi connections from across the Smart Campus.

Discourse Analytics processes those signals through Predictive Analytical modeling to understand what the underlying tendency of a student might be in the context of a given life-cycle goal. By developing attitudinal profiles, and continuing to map new signals and stimuli to the profile over time, Discourse Analytics is able to understand what sorts of behaviors can be expected by students with different attitudes as well as how those students respond to specific Nudges.

Based on the attitudinal profiles, Discourse Analytics works with the university to develop Nudge campaigns that speak to direct students to the next step along their journey. The shape of those nudges include messages like:

  • Schedule time with the Freshman Academic Advisor to start exploring majors.
  • Watch some online videos for how to establish a good study habit.
  • Attend an info session on Designing your own major.
  • Hybrid integration platforms
  • Review your options with a Financial Aid counselor

But, students in 2019 are incredibly busy and their digital media lives are quite crowded. Gartner highlights the Student Cross-Life-Cycle CRM, which enables university staff to assign Tasks and To Dos, and track their conversations. This can be incredibly powerful, and Discourse Analytics has offerings inside Microsoft Dynamics as well as Salesforce.

But, Gartner also calls out AI powered Conversational Interfaces. I’ll broaden this channel to “mobile conversation channels”, which can include SMS, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, and mobile web channels. Putting AI-powered chatbots behind those mobile communication channels can provide value and will respond to more and more in-bound requests. But, for now, it’s more important that schools think about activating channels where delivery is to a student’s pocket, but stands out from an already too-crowded email inbox.

The Why of the Data-Driven Academy

The pursuit of the Data-Driven Academy is the right one, but it’s important for university CIO’s to be focused on improving outcomes. Discourse Analytics has combined the technologies it has, because it sees the purpose of a unified data layer as improving student – and thereby university – outcomes. Approaching the challenge with a holistic view of data, technology and business process is critical to successfully executing against the campaigns that deliver the metrics the university seeks.