37: Academic Exploration Tool at University of Kentucky w/ Tyler Gayheart

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Tyler Gayheart, Director of Strategic Communication at the University of Kentucky discusses the work they’re doing to make their academic program listings more than a mere directory, but a truly exploratory tool for the undecided student.

I think that's the core of the story here. In terms of the content governance, we really even the playing field for everyone. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network. I'm Eric Olson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Tyler Gayheart, director of strategic communication at the University of Kentucky. Tyler, welcome to the show. Hey, you don't really excited to talk with you today about the work you're doing making your academic program listings more than a mere directory but a truly exploratory tool, especially for those students who are still undecided? Before we dig into that, Tyler, can you give the listeners a little better understanding of both the University of Kentucky and your role there? Yeah, so the University Kentucky is located in Lexington, Kentucky. We are a research one institution and we have over two hundred academic degree programs available to students enrolling here. Awesome, awesome. So most institutions academic program listings are acceptable at helping students located a specific degree they're looking for. But talk about how you wanted to create a tool that offers more than just selection but true academic exploration. Yea. So we have a long history of communicating our degree programs to our undergraduate students and even our graduate and professional students and for, you know, as long as we can trace back the founding tenants of the Internet, we would display these majors in some categorical way, alphabetically split. But most of this, as you look across higher at is expressed through what we know is major sheets,...

...and those major sheets are typically hosted as PDF, and that's where we were for the better part of a decade and it mostly would represent the same process of you walking into a office and spinning a Carousel to grab one of those major sheets. We basically expressed it on the Internet and we found an opportunity to really look at the research, look at our analytics. We knew that our major degree program pages at the University Kentucky were second or third most visited and frequented website at the institution across the Enterprise. So we looked at the research, we spoke to our students, we spoke with our faculty and staff and our advisors, and we also turn to some kind of external research to say, you know, what is a exploratory student or what is a perspective student really want to hear about? And at every bit of research we've found. The RUFFO and all levits e expectations report both pointed to kind of the campus environment. And then most, if not every, piece of research we found academic programming kept popping up and through that we identified some of the content areas and started to plug away, started to really rethink the way that we wrote that content, we displayed that content, and then after we built a taxonomy and a basically a database of all of that information, we started working backwards to find ways that students can connect with that information. Yeah, let's talk specifically about how the tool influenced your content creation, because now with your tool, students have the option to enter answers to I like to blank or I want to be a blank, and then you present potential program option matches based on their inputs. How has knowing where they're coming from, the fact that they're truly exploring and that convinced the yet of any specific program how is that influence the content you've presented on those follow up pages from a persuasion standpoint? So, from the perspective of the I like too, is I want to be a I'm searching for and then kind of the brows all the...

I like to focused on those noncognitives. Right. So most of the time when we spoke to an advisor, we spoke to a recruiter, they focused on things about what you want to study rather than those non cognitives which, through the research and as we look at looked at the kind of resources that were available from ut ooxbills, what can I do with my major? We heavily focused on matching with a students kind of personal noncognitive preference for what they want to study. So things like I like to help others, I like to be outside, I like to be creative, I like to teach others or crunch numbers or solve problems. Those were things that across the board as we built this platform, the colleges or the representatives who were managing those degree programs could easily tag their program with those noncognitive phrases. Likewise, with the kind of career keywords or the major keywords, we were able to load those into the system allow the program manager to assign those keywords so that when a student went into search, it would match with those degree programs. To date we have had over a hundred elevenzero program major keyword matches. We've had over twenty eight thou non cognitive phrase matches and interspace searches and so in beyond that, over forty four Tho career keyword searches. And so one of the stretch golds of the program was to really give a sense of what our students are searching for and then retroactively or proactively rather going back and updating those keywords. Things like when, the first month that we launched, we saw that students were searching for astronaut. Well, we didn't put astronaut into our keyword search bag and there were a few programs over in the college engineering that certainly could match with interest and engineering degree that would lead a student into the career of being an astronaut. So there are a number of kind of content governent questions...

...that come up. There are a lot of questions about who owns what keyword come up. All very interesting as we built a tool that is centrally managed from a technical stack but crowdsourced in terms of a community tool for users to update. It uses taxonomy level permissions so that you, the College of Engineering, only update and manage your particular programs. Yeah, the governance questions are super interesting to me because right now, if I type in keyword search using your tool, I searched for the word biology. It returns twelve different potential undergraduate majors. For me, that incorporates biology either within the criculum or those keywords as you describe. Talk about the benefits of that kind of search return diversity during the academic exploration stage for a student. Yea. So we know that there's a certain sense of kind of ambiguity that comes with trying to select a major and we wanted this tool to be both instructive in a kind of an advisor advisy scenario and also very intuitive from a student searching from home, from their laptop or their mobile device. So we wanted it. We wanted to give the users every opportunity to be able to search based on multiple criterion, right, so either the noncognitive phrases of the career keywords or the program keywords. Beyond that, there are Amazon like filters as you get on the landing page for the search results to filter down even more. So that was something that we thought really long and hard about in terms of giving the users are really kind of quick and cards sortable. If you land on the page, it kind of has this instagram like fill in terms of our pinterest like fill in terms of how the cards are sorted and how they land. We also spend a lot of time on content governance in terms of most of our...

...degree program descriptions were written in a very technical and dry way. So we spent a long time rewriting those short descriptions so that, a, they were consumable by our target audience but also scrollable on a mobile device. Really interesting, really interesting. Tyler, you your tool also utilizes the Bureau of Labor Statistics Open API. Talk about what that integration allows you to do from a data and metadata perspective within your tool. So we looked at a lot of different tools out there. Glass door. I think at one point we started thinking about using linkedin and the one thing that was really interesting is that the bls dog of the beer of Labor in statistics has an open API and updates that data on a fairly regular basis and we knew that that information was available to us and we could start to crosswalk or map those careers to our academic degree programs. And so, through an x ml feed, we were able to identify some of the most frequented information, working with our career center to say, okay, well, when you meet with a student, what are the things they're most looking for? Right so, median salary, number of jobs, tend your job outlook the work environment and what are the similar occupation? So we feed that information directly into the academic exploration tool and allow for that college user to select up to five careers to feature on their page. So if you visit accounting, you will see that one of the feature careers that they have is accountants and auditors, and that information is fed directly from the peer of labor and Statistics, and so it separates our responsibility for maintaining that content, knowing that it changes and the best source of that information is the beer of labor in statistics and really kind of evens the playing field for some of those units. I think that's the core of the story here. In terms of the content governance, we really even the playing field for everyone...

...to hop onto a centralized platform to communicate and really promote their academic degree programs, regardless of the marketing web communication resources that were available to them. It's really interesting what you've mentioned web governance quite a few times area in this discussion. Creating this tool really kind of forced that issue to come into the forefront because all of these academic templates had to match to make the tool work. How did you maneuver those web governess discussions and are you are you pleased with result that this kind of helps to further centralize at least your academic communication governance a bit? I think that's just like any project, especially an IT project. You're never done. It's constant improvement, and so with our content, knowing that it's a living, breathing thing and that degree programs are absolutely dynamic with the CO curricular curricular students stories, and so we always strive to communicate and work with our what we call aet authors to keep their content updated make sure it's fresh, make sure they're integrating in relevant stories, relevant videos, relevant images and just staying on top of that. So I think that's something that we're never done with. I am pleased with how the content authors responded to some of the templates that we presented to them. So, for example, when we were least this tool, we basically gave a blank Laura Mip, some template for each one of the degree programs to the communicator in that, you know, relative office or relative college, and some came back with some really, really kind of creative ways to display this information, where maths started using statistical notation in the top statistics and the top and biology and engineering...

...came back with some very kind of creative ways to display their information as well. So knowing that we gave them the content guard rails to follow and that they didn't just copy and paste from their major sheet PDF, that they really took the time to express and display their content on this page with kind of care and intentionality, really spoke volumes for those programs to then turn around and act as the example for for other programs. So it's kind of a self serving system in terms of content governance, and you can always point to really good example. So we continue to point to really good examples on the platform, knowing that folks are updating it and managing it every single day. Now, this isn't the wild west. We came up with a nice revisioning process similar to how news rooms and news stands manage their content. So when a content author contributes an edit, it goes into a queue and my team does it review it for content, but we review it for the length, there's any broken html, if there's any broken images, and making sure that there's, you know, no typos or anything of that nature, and then we publish it. So there's this kind of feedback loop and there's also kind of a community around this as well. Really good stuff, Tyler. You've already mentioned how you're utilizing analytics already to improve the tool in terms of seeing what search results are coming in. That you don't have matches for any other results that you can report on so far in terms of how this tool is improving the the user experience compared to your traditional listings page before it. Yeah, so last summer are institution moved from an undeclared major and undecided major, what we call undergraduate studies, into multiple opportunities for students to be exploratory in our colleges and we had never been in the habit of proactively asking students to think...

...about moving majors and we were faced with the challenge to proactively communicate the students who had selected the undeclared option to encourage them to select an exploratory major and one of these colleges. And we knew that there would have to be kind of intrusive advising, one on one advising conversations and meetings with those students to help produce their uncertainty about what major that they're selecting and we went on a campaign. We went on a email and direct marketing campaign to encourage those students to select a major as they're coming in for their summer orientation and through that we leverage the academic exploration tool to help a base of students who were undecided to select a degree program and over twenty three percent of those students, within the first four to five weeks of that communication plan and strategy, started to select a program based on their exploration and findings in the academic exploration tool. There were also a lot of conversations and advising that took place with that, but a lot of the kind of independent advising and tools to help a student explore were found in the academic exploration tool. So we're really proud of the tools being used to not only help a prospective student shop and kind of learn what they want to do as it relates to their career, as it relates to their interests and as it relates to the kind of how the career looks across the United States and other areas, but how it's really changed the nature of how our exploratory advisors advised. There is an advisor over in our career center whose job it is to advise students around decided who our exploratory and this tool is. The academic exploration tool is a tool and in their arsenal,...

...so to speak, to advise and break the ice with a students. When a student comes in and says I want to be a graphic designer, they can kind of use this tool to break the eyes. It's awesome. I love those use cases and such encouraging early results. Tyler, thanks so much. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any Filip questions? Sure they can connect with me on twitter at Joseph Gayheart awesome. Thanks against so much for joining us today, Tyler. Thank you so much. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Slash playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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