Socializing College Admissions and Enrollment Management

Facebook Like and Dislike thumbsImagine SunGard, Datatel or a Jenzibar socializing college admissions and enrollment management as a service to college students and as a competitive differentiator for colleges. Not only would this put the focus back on the student as the consumer in the college admissions process but also in the course selection and enrollment process. If a student information system (SIS) vendor were to offer a socialized product it would undoubtedly be the most innovative and disruptive change to hit higher education in decades.

The Socialized SIS

The emergence of a socialized student information system, or if your prefer a socialized ERP, in higher education seems like an inevitability. Students are already living a social life and our economy is rapidly adopting the features of a social living economy where social networks and reputation influence college students behavior.

So imagine the power a socialized SIS would have if it could hold or access the social media profile of prospective students and current students. The socialized SIS would offer prospective students the option to connect using their Facebook or Twitter accounts while granting the college access to their profile on the respective social networks.

Colleges could even incentivize prospective students by discounting the application fee 25% for each social media profile they link to. Eventually making applying free if they link to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. What about offering existing college students referral rewards using social networks alternative currencies?

The socialized SIS would also require additional capabilities in the business intelligence (BI) and analytics end. This would be best accomplished by the integration with a mature social media analysis platform that already has the hooks into the top social networks and could natively support the opt-in and opt-out features you would have to have.

Socialized College Admissions

When college admissions is socialized a college bound high school student would be able to look beyond the profiles of colleges in the traditional directories and consider the social profile of the institution, its faculty and students. Prospective students and their parents could see more clearly the social profile of the college, what campus life is actually like, the effectiveness of student services, and the profile of graduates.

As the capability matured, prospective students would be able to predict social compatibility with the institution and their cohort for their chosen major. This would include reputation rankings on a range of factors affecting student success at the institutional level, by academic department and perhaps some demographic slices that prospective students care about.

This capability might be best served by a third party broker who would also offer comparisons of colleges to prospective students on any number of factors that can be derived from student social media profiles. This would intensify the college admissions process and give college students far more power than they enjoy today because the individual institutions would no longer control the message.

Think on a grander scale which would have tremendous value when applied to a graduate school where data from LinkedIn could be integrated. Imagine being able to compare profiles of the likely cohorts you would join in an executive MBA program for the schools you are considering applying to or accepting admissions from. This is far more powerful than existing placement and earnings data.

I realize this might be a scary idea to many. But as I said, there is an inevitability to it and what many colleges may not know is that you can already harvest a lot of this data today through companies offering social media analysis services.

Socialized Enrollment Management

Now extend the idea to where the enrollment management model is socialized. Students would see the traditional course catalog along with student ratings and comments in a new social course catalog. Even a simple Like or Dislike model to create a reputation rating just like for a restaurant.

The social course catalog would allow the development of ratings and reputation for each course descriptions and faculty member in order to further support a more informed consumer.

Socialized enrollment management would not stop at simply creating a social course catalog. It would also support presenting the class profile comprised of the aggregate social profile of the students as they enroll. This would give the class a view into classmate reputation for collaboration, engagement, and other factors important to other students who know their classmates play an important role in the quality of their own learning.

To use the executive MBA example again wouldn’t you want to know if your classmates were established professionals versus recent graduates with no work experience. Another example would be in deciding to take a course online versus in person by using the social course description and ratings to inform the decision.

Risk and Reward

To say that I realize the controversy this might bring would be an understatement. For many I suppose it conjures up old memories of picking teams in junior high gym class. Others would be concerned it becomes a popularity contest or degrades into an offensive competition based on student hotness or worse.

It is conceivable the divide between good colleges and bad colleges would widen if students had more information to inform their college selection or course selection decision. Bad schools would get worse and certain schools would become magnets around particular interests or demographics. Think “top 20 party schools” lists and the effects they have. And simple things like assigning dorm rooms might get very complicated.

Again, I think there is inevitability for this to happen in the near term. So, college admissions officers and deans would do well to engage the SIS vendors today on developing a strategy for a social SIS in order to have some degree of control. The last thing you want is for the social networks like Facebook or even Google to release a “college profile” or “class mates” application without your input.

Perhaps now that SunGard and Datatel can move forward with the ‘merger’, they can put together a roadmap for a new kind of socialized student information system and lead the transfomation of higher education in the era of social living. Because I think this might be best accomplished by a broker, perhaps it can be offered as a cloud based clearinghouse service that all SIS vendors and colleges could access as a service and which students could access directly.

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3 Responses to Socializing College Admissions and Enrollment Management

  1. I could not agree with you more on this subject.

    There are so many factions fighting to gain any edge they can in the social media arena, higher education has to take notice. Everyone from politicians to television shows to outdoor equipment resellers are using all forms of social media to move, motivate, market to and attract new clients.

    Higher education needs to view current and potential students in a similar manner. They need to begin or expand upon their social media efforts to attract and retain their ‘clients’ the students. This effort goes beyond merely having a page on Facebook or Google + or creating videos for YouTube. Social media is the new mass mailing recruiting tool and instead of touching one student at a time, social media has the ability to touch thousands, even millions of potential students with a single click worldwide. Going beyond the recruiting element, institutions that partner with a proven social media ‘data mining’ company can quickly find out what is being discussed concerning not only their institution but institutions that they compete against for students. It IS a competition.

    For example, in the 2012 election, political parties are aligning their campaigns with these social media data mining companies to not only pull out pertinent ‘talking points’ for their debates but are also using the near real time data to respond to, correct, update, spin and ask for donations in accordance with what is being discussed on the various social media channels. Higher education needs to take a page from these efforts to address issues (real or artificial) and promote positive statements that are being discussed about their institution.

    But you can’t go into this arena without a plan, a partner with a strong social media offering and a social media data mining provider. Without these items, an institution could do more harm than good.

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