Tertiary talk


How data insights can improve the student journey and experience

Tertiary Talk - November 2018

While data and analytics has been used in the tertiary sector for many years across traditional functions, higher education institutions are yet to fully embrace the potential of big data and analytics that is transforming the world around them.

With the rapid development of technology and the adoption of alternative educational pathways, tertiary institutions need to keep pace and harness the power of data insights to innovate education delivery.

The prevalence of digital technologies means that students are increasingly demanding more autonomy on how they engage with education providers.

The modern-day tertiary education experience is becoming more and more digital, thereby generating volumes of data that can explored. Institutions can derive many insights from this pool of data, enabling them to shape service delivery throughout the student journey.

The student journey


The first opportunity for students to assess a tertiary institution and its offerings is typically via the institute’s website and enrolment systems. Students’ interaction with these systems generates valuable data, which can provide insights on course planning and matching. Tertiary institutions can also use this data to start building the profile of the student, which will contribute to a greater understanding of how to support them in their tertiary education journey.

Key use cases include:

  • Predictive Analytics - The New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission’s ‘Transition to Tertiary Life’ pre-report identified that information relevant to students’ lives, aspirations and personalities should be taken into account when choosing tertiary education, in order to align with their desired outcome.

Through analysing an individual’s data, an institution can present information that is relevant to them and their long-term goals. Capturing data from graduates can provide a view of how the decisions that a student makes at the early stages of their journey impacts their long-term outcomes.

  • Streamlined Applications – The application of data analytics allows institutes to streamline many key administration processes. The abundance of useful data within the NZ administrative system about a prospective student can potentially be shared amongst institutions as well as downstream government processes to reduce pain points in these processes for students and tertiary institutions alike.


The orientation period for students is a crucial time, and one that exposes the student to all the facets of their potential student journey. Data from this period such as attendance at orientation events, registration for campus facilities, mentoring programmes and clubs can provide insights as to the personal interests of the student and their expectations of the tertiary education experience.

Key use cases include:

  • Predictive Analytics - A crucial component of the tertiary education experience is socialisation, and students who have strong social networks typically have a more fulfilling experience and achieve better outcomes during study and post study. Predictive analytics can be used to suggest socialisation opportunities aligned with students’ preferences.


With the availability of online resources and learning platforms, students have a variety of sources to learn from in addition to the traditional format of lectures and course-books. To provide a broader experience that will meet a range of learning needs data analytics can be employed to understand individual preferences and curate learning options that suit.

Key Use Cases include:

  • Tailored Learning - Learning analytics (the application of analytics to learners to understand and optimise learning, and the environment in which it occurs) has the potential to revolutionise the student experience by allowing an institution to provide targeted, personalised assistance to each student.
  • Digital Content Analytics - As more and more content is delivered digitally, the extent and volume of data that can be mined increases. For example, insights around how often students are accessing online lecture recordings, and which sections of the recording are paused and re-watched the most frequently can be analysed to determine whether students find particular aspects of the course challenging. These insights can be used by lecturers and tutors to adapt their course material and delivery, and better support students’ learning.


Alumni data can be analysed to derive insights into post-study outcomes. This can have the benefits of allowing tertiary institutions to better match students to various courses of study, as well as develop and manage their network of alumni for identifying career and employment opportunities for soon-to-be graduates.

Data Insights and  your organisation

To maximise the benefits that data analytics offers, and to become truly insight-driven, organisations need to be ensuring:

  • data and insight strategies are well-defined and relevant;
  • data management policies and procedures are effective (and address potential ethical/privacy issues);
  • systems and the data you capture are fit-for-purpose and secure;
  • staff are supported to obtain the necessary digital literacy, capability and data management skills; and
  • senior leaders understand and support the transformation.


How ready is your organisation for big data?

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