[Soundboard] Note on HigherEd Statistics


Photo by hunnnterrr

If you don’t know, I work in higher education and I kind of like the whole marketing thing in whichever way it manifests itself. Constantly, we are getting survey’s sent to us [our department and me] telling us what students are “expecting” from us [higher ed institutions]. They say, “students want their own institutional social network…students want your website to look edgy and bold…students care about cost and aid information.”

First of all, let me just say there’s no button on our website to click and make it automatically edgy. Also, edgy is subjective and trendy. Trends by definition don’t last. Alls I’m saying. Be relevant over edgy.

Here is thing. For all these surveys, regardless of the issuer, a 1,000 student sample is not adequate. I know all you statisticians are going to give me the statistical equation to calculate the reliability of the data and to which percentile, so long as it’s random, blah blah. But this is one case where random sample numbers simply cannot answer all the questions for all institutions.

When it comes to education, especially higher ed, there is not better place to get your data from then your own population. Everyone on your campus has already elected to attend your school, many for different reasons. Different regions of the country are obviously different socially and culturally. The northwest is very different to the south, New Yorkers are different to Texans, etc. That said, data collected in LA will not necessarily apply to schools in Nashville.

So what’s the moral of the story? Advertising and marketing cost money. Building internal social networks and restructuring your website take time. These things shouldn’t be done based on a survey, because you’ll get another reliable one in about a month that says something different (yes, I have seen this).

SURVEY YOUR OWN. The type of people that attend your institution are the target market for your institution. No matter how different they may look and act, their is something inside each them that is similar. If they say they want a social network then start thinking about it. If they say class information is hard to find, restructure.

I am not saying that all survey’s are wrong, that’s actually the opposite of what I am saying if you read the whole post. Data is important and in all honesty probably the only way you will be able to get your superiors to approve anything you want to do. What I am saying is to simply choose the survey’s you base your cost decisions on carefully.