Pandemic priorities: In the face of chaos, data still matters

Higher education was flipped sideways by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the health and economic burden is undeniable, some of the new options to teach, learn, and work may actually benefit us in the future. Through it all, reliable data remains a key tool to help us plan and measure these changes.

Read on to see how Ingram Market Analytics weathered the storm, and why we now need data analytics more than ever. Sections of these blog articles were published in the award-winning EDgage—A Magazine for Higher Education Marketers published by the Association for Print Technologies. 


Part 1: A Data Geek Works from Home

I analyze large databases to find data-driven stories to boost college and university marketing and enrollment. Adjusting to doing this in an at-home, stand-alone environment wasn’t all that hard.

But my goal is always to build context around the data to make it actionable, and that requires interaction with clients. I’ve found that conversing about data when we’re all together, face to face, reveals extraordinary insights that let me to use data as a solution for effective decision-making.

These days, working remotely, I struggle to read the nonverbal cues in the room. This is quite a challenge when conducting a presentation on Zoom, especially when audio is on mute, and video images come and go. No doubt this has been a problem for many of us.

The top stressors we all share

Whether you’re analyzing your enrollment yield or finalizing a recruitment brochure, I’m sure you’re also missing human interaction. This contributes to feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about the future and our students.

These workplace attitudes were confirmed by a survey conducted by Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium.

Higher education employees identified these three top concerns and sources of stress:

  • Health and wellbeing of family and friends (60%).
  • What the future holds for their institution (65%).
  • Health and wellbeing of their students (53%).

Let’s talk more, not less

Everyone’s personal responses to the pandemic-induced quarantine are different. Some confront illness, job cutbacks, and the added challenge of home-schooling their own children. Others may be enjoying the novelty of working at home without a stressful commute. Still, sharing our experiences can help to ease the difficulties.

Honesty and transparency reduce stress and minimize fear and panic, even when the news isn’t good. So I am making sure to provide a good dose of communication when I work with clients, and so should you. It’s scarier for your audiences when they don’t hear anything.

Colleges move in a new direction

Generally, the pivot went smoothly in my work with marketing and enrollment managers. Some took the time to review and use data to improve their marketing strategy in print and digital. Some didn’t know when to stop, seeking perfection, which can be the enemy of the good. But this is understandable, since they are facing an unprecedented need to keep students safe and healthy while continuing their education.

Many have moved services online. Now, prospective students can visit campus virtually or through print materials. Paperwork is accepted online, and students expect to find the resources they need waiting for them, day or night.

Some universities have experienced an “aha!” or “oh no!” moment when reviewing the virtual services that should have been in place before the global pandemic. Embracing this kind of continuous assessment for improvements could be one of the positive outcomes of these difficult days.

Next — Working and managing, remotely


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Ingram Market Analytics

Ingram Market Analytics, in Pittsburgh, was established by John Ingram, who has 25 years of experience in institutional research. I practice action analytics. I can turn drowsy data into an active advocate to support and champion your ideas. Get results that you can use immediately for greater productivity.