Advancement

Warm data vs. cold data: Why we need to start listening to students' stories

Warm data vs. cold data: Why we need to start listening to students' stories

“Cold data” is data as we know it: quantitative metrics that capture a single variable at a time, at a single point in time.

Grades. Retention. Giving rate. Net Promoter Score. And so on.

We use metrics like these all the time to keep track of how we are doing, how our institutions are doing, and how our constituents are doing. These metrics can be powerful! There’s no denying that.

But metrics like these have their limitations, too. Two big ones come to mind for me. First, these data are narrow in scope—they tell us one thing and lack context. Second, these data don’t tell us why—why did a student fail that class, why did they drop out, why didn’t they make a gift? These limitations are what make these data “cold.”

Want to Better Serve Students? Design With Empathy: Reflecting on ListenUp EDU 2019

Want to Better Serve Students? Design With Empathy: Reflecting on ListenUp EDU 2019

Did the last conference you attended have a dance interlude? How about an artist in residence? A jazz musician? Was every session interdisciplinary and interactive?

I could go on, but rather than list all the things that set ListenUp EDU, the conference we hosted two weeks ago with Campus Sonar, I suggest you browse the #ListenUpEDU hashtag on Twitter and Instagram yourself.

ListenUp was about, well, listening—listening to students, to alumni, and to our teams in higher education in order to better serve our constituents and create change within our institutions.

If you’re interested in hearing about what’s in store for Listen Up 2020, sign up for the mailing list on the conference site and we’ll keep you posted. For the benefit of those who didn’t make it to ListenUp this year, I’ve tried to summarize the conference in four points.

How the University of Maryland Engages Previously Unengaged Alumni with Online Book Clubs

How the University of Maryland Engages Previously Unengaged Alumni with Online Book Clubs

If you could meaningfully engage hundreds of alumni who had never interacted with your institution before with a program that didn’t require staff time to run, you would, right?

We probably all would. But that might not stop us from being skeptical if we were told that the program that could do that is a virtual book club.

But the proof of the book club is in the reading. Jeff Williams, Associate Executive Director of Engagement and Outreach at the University of Maryland Alumni Association, and his team launched four book clubs in July and reached nearly 2,000 alumni in 46 states almost right away. Over a quarter of those had never engaged with the alumni association before. And they did it all with minimal staff time by partnering with an outside company to handle the program.

What is Design Thinking, Anyway? And Why Should We in Higher Ed Care?

What is Design Thinking, Anyway? And Why Should We in Higher Ed Care?

If you’ve attended a conference or read articles or, well, done anything, really, in the past few years you’ve likely heard of something called “design thinking.” And if you’re anything like me, you’ve turned your nose up at what seems to be the latest fad out of Silicon Valley.

But design thinking is not business-school jargon. It isn’t pretentious, or fake, or overhyped. It’s actually useful—yes, even to higher ed, with all its quirks.

Here's why.

Hello, We’re People: How Losing Weight Made Me Appreciate the Value of Community in Creating Meaningful Change

Hello, We’re People: How Losing Weight Made Me Appreciate the Value of Community in Creating Meaningful Change

Change is hard. (See: Newton’s first law of motion). And humans are inherently lazy and creatures of habit. If there is more than one way to do something complex, we will almost always take the easy route. That, or shove it in a drawer so we won’t have to look at it.

So when I decided I wasn’t happy with the way I was looking and feeling about my weight for the umpteenth time, I held on tight to my inertia until a friend invited me to a Weight Watchers meeting.