How Behavioral Data Can Revolutionize Your Campus Culture 

In a world increasingly focused on metrics and outcomes, practicing empathy can sometimes feel like an afterthought. But fostering a culture of empathy is crucial for student success, well-being, and ultimately, institutional success. 

Fortunately for colleges and universities, one underutilized resource can help scale empathy: behavioral data.  

Empathy involves understanding and responding to others’ feelings and experiences. Colleges can extend this understanding to every student by leveraging behavioral data. This scales empathy across the institution and makes empathy an integral part of the institution’s culture. This data-driven approach allows the institution to identify individual needs and develop personalized support systems. With behavioral data, every student can feel seen, heard, and valued.  

Understanding Students Through Behavioral Data

Understanding student needs has traditionally relied on surveys, focus groups, and faculty or advisor interactions. These methods are valuable but have limitations. Surveys can have low response rates, focus groups may not capture the full student spectrum, and faculty and staff interactions can be reactive rather than proactive. And while demographic data provides important context for the student experience, it isn’t as dynamic as behavioral data.  

Properly set up behavioral data, on the other hand, offers a real-time, comprehensive view into student experiences. Data sources like learning management systems (LMS), student information systems (SIS), customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, library usage, and even physical access card swipes can give insights into student behavior patterns. 

Importantly, this data does, and should go, beyond just grades. Behavioral data reveals how students engage with coursework, how they utilize resources, and even their emotional state (portal access patterns or online activity during high-stress periods can show this). By analyzing these patterns, colleges can identify students struggling academically, feeling isolated, or facing personal challenges – all before they raise a red flag—and can respond with empathy. 

Empathy in Action: Using Data to Guide Support

Imagine a student consistently logging into the LMS late at night, revisiting the same material repeatedly. This could indicate confusion or difficulty grasping a concept. Armed with this knowledge, professors can offer targeted support, like additional online resources or personalized tutoring. 

Similarly, data might show a student rarely accessing the library or attending extracurricular events. This might suggest social isolation. Here, the university can proactively connect the student with relevant clubs or peer mentoring programs. 

The uses of engaging with behavioral data extend beyond academics. Data might reveal a student’s sudden drop in online activity or access card swipes. This could mean the student is experiencing illness, financial hardship, or a personal crisis. Proactive outreach by advisors or support services can ensure timely intervention that prevents attrition. 

Scaling Empathy Beyond Individual Students

Behavioral data insights aren’t limited to individual students. They can also contribute to identifying broader student trends. For example, if data shows a significant number of students dropping introductory science courses, this could suggest a systemic issue with course structure or teaching methods. More specifically, educators may be able to identify when students begin to struggle during a course. Armed with this knowledge, the institution can adjust the curriculum or provide just-in-time support resources. 

Similarly, behavioral data might highlight underutilized campus resources. A college might learn that tutoring service use declines throughout the term, for example. By identifying areas where students aren’t engaging, colleges can tailor outreach efforts or redesign services to better match student needs when they need them. This behavioral-data-driven approach ensures resources are allocated where and when they have the most significant impact. 

Leveraging behaviors to gain holistic understanding

Using behavioral data isn’t about micromanaging students or turning them into data points. It’s about leveraging technology to gain a holistic understanding of their experience, anticipate their needs, and respond with empathy. 

By offering targeted support, fostering a more inclusive environment, and optimizing resources based on student behavior, institutions can create a campus culture that cares in practice—not just in theory. This can lead to higher student satisfaction, improved academic success, and ultimately, successful institution. 

Scaling empathy through behavioral data benefits both students and schools and colleges. Increased student success translates to higher retention rates. And strong history of engaging with empathy attracts and retains students, leading to institutional success. 

Colleges and universities must move beyond traditional methods of understanding student needs. By embracing the power of behavioral data, institutions can foster a more empathetic learning environment, where every student feels seen, understood, and supported on their academic journey.