Welcome to The Higher Edge Podcast!
Jan. 10, 2023

Data is the Fulcrum to Pivot 2023 Higher Ed Trends (featuring Lige Hensley)

Predicting the future is never easy.

However we can make some educated guesses on what the Higher Education space will see and have to do to stay competitive in 2023.

I’m joined today by Lige Hensley (https://www.linkedin.com/in/ligehensley/), Founde...

Predicting the future is never easy.

However we can make some educated guesses on what the Higher Education space will see and have to do to stay competitive in 2023.

I’m joined today by Lige Hensley, Founder and CEO of Invoke Learning, who helps to peer into the future of 2023 to see how the following will shake out for the industry this year:

- Remote and Online’s Evolution Post COVID-19 (5:04)

- Using Data in 2023 to see why Every School is Different (20:25)

- Is AI a job boosting tool, or a terrifying Terminator (27:35)

Is 2023 the year of AI, or is it the year of the remote course?  

It’s tough to say, but  we’ll make sure that a followup episode for this comes out later this year to see what we got right and where we missed the mark!

Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:


- Brendan Aldrich

- Lige Hensley

- Invoke Learning

To hear this interview and many more like it, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website or search for The Higher Edge in your favorite podcast player. 


[00:00:00] Lige Hensley: Welcome 

[00:00:08] Announcer: to The Higher Edge, a podcast for the brightest minds in higher education. Hear from the change makers and rulebreakers that are driving meaningful, impactful change for colleges and universities across the country from improving operations to supporting student success. These are the stories that give you, "The Higher Edge".

[00:00:30] And now your host, Brendan Aldrich. 

[00:00:33] Brendan Aldrich: Hey everyone, and welcome to the Higher Edge. I'm Brendan Aldrich, and welcome to our very first episode of 2023. Hope y'all had a great holiday and are starting a fantastic new year. I am here today with my good friend, Lige Hensley. We are kicking off our 2023 season with a discussion of some of the key higher ed trends this year and some thoughts about what we might see moving forward [00:01:00] into this new.

[00:01:02] Now, Lige and I have known each other four years, and I do get asked about how we actually met. Now, like many technologists, Lija spent a fair bit of time working in a number of different industry sectors before he became the Chief Technology officer of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, where he spent the better part of a decade leading some pretty interesting initiatives across this statewide community college.

[00:01:25] In fact, it's the fourth largest college in the. This was back in 2015. I was at City Colleges of Chicago leading a data democracy approach to empowering thousands of employees with easy access to relevant data. Live, as it turns out, was just three hours down the road crafting really some of the most innovative data architectures that I'd ever come across.

[00:01:47] Elijah and I met shortly before I joined Ivy Tech as their first. Data officer, we joined our approaches and ended up winning a couple of international awards for our work, so not too [00:02:00] shabby. A fun fact, while we worked together at Ivy, we were adding around a hundred million rows a day, uh, related to students across the state to the data platform.

[00:02:10] Elijah's now founder and CEO of our sponsor, invoke Learning and working with a couple of dozen schools overseeing a platform that's now tracking at. Trillion rows of data and growing at over one and a half billion rows each and every day. Uh, over the years, Elijah and I have become great friends, and I am thrilled to introduce him to you.

[00:02:31] Elijah, thanks for coming on the program and welcome to the Higher Edge. Thanks. Nice to be here. Now, as I was reviewing 2022 and thinking about 2023, I found that there were a lot of people focusing on discussing non-traditional students as one of the key trends, uh, with the National Center for Education Statistics, highlighting that at least in 2020, these students made up almost 75% of the 20 million students currently enrolled in post-secondary education, and that [00:03:00] about 59% of these students also have full-time.

[00:03:03] Now we've both heard people make the argument that over the course of the last few years, you know, every student has now become a non-traditional student. What are your thoughts? 

[00:03:12] Lige Hensley: You know, I think there's a lot of truth to that. Pre covid, it was largely business as usual for everybody that I've, that I've worked with.

[00:03:20] When Covid happened, everyone became a, an online student essentially, overnight. Now that we're past Covid, we're in what I would call the hybrid phase where. A lot of online usage. There's still some online only students, but certainly the percentage of online students has increased dramatically. So with the schools that I've been working with across the country, I, I think that's very true.

[00:03:43] And I, and I don't see that trend changing or going away anytime soon. I think that we're, we're in this hybrid mode, and I think that mode is here to stay. Um, it's too convenient for some people and, uh, you know, we've learned how to do it. Education has went through the pandemic and. How [00:04:00] to do online at scale?

[00:04:02] Brendan Aldrich: Well, we could talk ad nauseum about the the efficacy of online learning over on-campus learning. The one thing it did do was enable institutions to actually operate over the course of the pandemic in one of the podcasts, we did Risk recently with Phil Miller, who was managing director of Open lms, the world's largest Moodle based learning management system.

[00:04:21] One of the things that really jumped out at me from that conversation, With online, having been so prominent in the last few years and how it's likely to continue being, uh, a large portion of what colleges are offering, it's gonna become a lot more important for colleges to differentiate themselves when it comes to online, given the fact that there's only a handful of learning management systems that, that most colleges use.

[00:04:42] Lige Hensley: Yeah. You know what? It's interesting. Typically, when we were all in college, and, and I think largely even still today, being on campus is, is part of that college experience. And then when your college experience. An online experience differentiation is, is gonna be challenging. If you are a, a Canvas or a Moodle school, [00:05:00] those platforms tend to look very similar.

[00:05:02] So I think it's interesting how colleges are going to differentiate themselves. Certainly the the big name schools are always gonna have a differentiator and that's their name. Or schools with a big sports program are gonna have that for people to latch onto. But when it comes an online only experience or a predominantly online, Differentiating that is gonna be a challenge.

[00:05:22] And getting students to feel like they're part of the institution is going to be a challenge. And, and how do you do that? And even more importantly, for the online students, how do you know that that online student is engaged? How do you know they do feel a part of the community? Because that is, you know, critical to persistence and eventually completion.

[00:05:40] Brendan Aldrich: in the old days, like you were talking about, you could go to the campus, you could see the buildings, you, you could talk to other students, you could get an idea of the history of the institution and and find those places to tie yourself to it. But as you pointed out, tying yourself to that online presence, especially when the online presence of a.

[00:05:56] A community college might look very similar to a four year college or a graduate [00:06:00] school is gonna be important to, to basically say, Hey, this is why you need to come study with us. Uh, course descriptions, marketing, you know, around how users work with us, or we provide learning to students. Although you and I talked recently that there's a, a challenge with that in the sense of you don't wanna make yourself be too.

[00:06:16] Lige Hensley: Yeah, I think, and we talked about the non-traditional student just a few minutes ago. I think that that is a critical factor in all of this. Students today, they've grown up with the internet. Um, my kids, when they were born, the internet was already a thing and with a lot of non-traditional students, for students are maybe a little bit older, that is not the case.

[00:06:35] And so their modality of preference or of experience has been, I'm in a classroom, I've got an instructor in front of me. I can see them after class. Things like that. And so now when it's only online or largely online, the folks that didn't grow up in that world, I think are going to have a, a different experience, especially trying to go back to school if they've, if they've been out for a while.

[00:06:55] So there's a lot of challenges there that I think bridge, [00:07:00] you know, the generational gaps and, and things like that is just gonna make it even more challenging. And, and that is something that, that we're seeing a. And I know, and especially in the community college space, that's something that is, that is on the top of mind for them because they're seeing it and living it 

[00:07:14] Brendan Aldrich: every day, or they're getting badging, they're getting micro-credentials.

[00:07:17] All of these things that in some ways, . The older people that are used to a more traditional education, who are the entrepreneurs who are managers and leaders of these companies are a little bit more used to the way that education has always been done. But now with the way, as you're mentioning younger students, gen Z and others, they're wanting education in different way.

[00:07:36] And even though that might not be as compatible with the people in the, in the companies that are doing hiring, eventually, these are the people that are going to be those people hiring in the future. . Yeah, it 

[00:07:45] Lige Hensley: is, it is an interesting trend. If you look over time, I mean, technology has changed everything, right?

[00:07:51] It changes the way we communicate and we consume news. Even, um, if you think about it, when we were, when we were growing up in the seventies and the eighties, you [00:08:00] watched the 5:00 PM news and that's how you got your 

[00:08:03] Brendan Aldrich: news on one of three different 

[00:08:04] Lige Hensley: channels, . Well, exactly right. Your, your choices were, you know, the three major networks, and that was about.

[00:08:10] And now you consume your news in much smaller chunks than on a much more sporadic schedule. Right? When your phone beeps, you get a new snippet. There you, when you have 30 seconds in an elevator, you'll look at, you know, Twitter or your favorite newsfeed. Everything has changed and technology is driving that.

[00:08:27] And I think the, the challenge certainly for 2023 and going forward is gonna be how do we adapt? To that change in the way our students consume. So they consume their entertainment, they consume, you know, news and other media in a very different way than they did when we were growing up, or even than we did 20 years ago.

[00:08:47] So it's gonna be interesting to see how that progresses and how education adapts to that. I mean, I, I don't believe education is broken, which of course you hear that a lot in the news, but I do think education has to. Because the [00:09:00] students are adapting. The students have changed dramatically in the last 20 years, especially when compared to how students change maybe in the previous 

[00:09:07] Brendan Aldrich: 200 years.

[00:09:08] We always think about it as it being generational, but the fact of the matter is it's not really, I mean, I've got a a 92 year old parent who gets their news on Apple News, on their phone, on a daily basis, 

[00:09:19] Lige Hensley: and I would imagine that that parent probably read the newspaper back in the seventies and eighties every morning as they had their coffee.

[00:09:25] They did. Right. Or when we were kids. We had our cereal and our entertainment while eating cereal in the morning was reading the back of the cereal box or, or fishing in that box for the toy, right? My kids today, when they're eating cereal, they're, they're on their phone looking at their, their, uh, schedule for the day or maybe YouTube or TikTok.

[00:09:44] They're doing a very different thing and it's interactive, which I think is another critical difference. All of those media sources that we grew up with or that our parents grew up with were not interactive. You, you had to seek them. , you engage with it by reading it and that was it. Or maybe you watch tv, [00:10:00] but maybe you just read it.

[00:10:02] Nowadays we're interacting with our content constantly, and that I think is a fundamental shift in the way our kids are raised, in the way that that things have progressed with technology, and I think that's gonna be a big challenge for education, that we're gonna have to figure out how to adapt in order to, you know, to get the results that.

[00:10:20] Brendan Aldrich: Agreed. You know, one of the other bigger topics last year was of course the continued enrollment declines across the vast majority of institutions in the United States. I was reading in November of this year, the Los Angeles Times, uh, published an article on how enrollment to the California Community Colleges had dropped with.

[00:10:36] 30 year low, which was an 18% drop from system-wide pre pandemic levels of about 2019. And of course, within that individual campuses can vary quite a bit with some of them. Uh, one in particular that had shown an enrollment drop of over 44% the same time period. We're coming outta the pandemic a little bit.

[00:10:53] But does, do those kind of drops and numbers surprise you based on the, the data that you've seen? 

[00:10:58] Lige Hensley: You know, no, not [00:11:00] really. A lot of the data that we look at is behavioral data, how students are behaving in the things that they're. And I'm really not surprised by that. There's a lot that's happened in the past three years.

[00:11:11] I, I would wager more's happened in the past two to three years than has happened in my entire lifetime. So there's a lot that's happened, um, with the world. And so tho those numbers don't surprise me. As we all know, enrollment, especially in community colleges, fluctuates. You know, the, the rule when I was at a school was, you know, when the economy's bad enrollment goes up and when the economy's good, the enrollment goes down.

[00:11:34] The swings weren't dramatic. I think what we're seeing now is a bit more dramatic, still cyclical, and I think some of the reasonings are, are different. Um, a lot of things are factoring into it, like the student loan forgiveness while it's still being debated, that that is certainly a factor. The economy is a factor.

[00:11:53] A lot of socioeconomic things are, are affecting that, but I'm, I'm not surprised. The student behaviors are [00:12:00] changing. I don't wanna call it the force to online, but the, the move to online that all the schools had to make during the pandemic, I think has really fundamentally changed the way a lot of younger folks look at school.

[00:12:11] I, I know anecdotally from talking to students, that is absolutely the case, and we're seeing that in some of the data, the way students engage and how they engage, where they're engag. And their patterns have just changed fairly significantly in the past few years. Largely I, I believe because of the pandemic, but I'm sure there's other factors as well.

[00:12:31] Brendan Aldrich: Hey, for everyone listening, hang tight. We're gonna take a quick break to hear from our sponsor and we'll be back in just one minute.

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[00:13:41] Brendan Aldrich: Thanks so much for listening to our sponsor. Let's get back to. while Invoke Learning, published a blog recently, uh, called, uh, the Metaverse and What it Means for Higher Education.

[00:13:51] And in that, uh, blog, it was cited that Best College's Online Education Trends Report had done a study and said that 60% of [00:14:00] remote learners said that they're likely to stay enrolled in online courses even after those schools returned to on-campus. . Uh, but what was interesting about that is not just the, the high volume, I think that they were planning to stay online, but the reasons, I think, as I recall, the first reason was that existing work and family commitments don't allow for attendance and campus-based courses.

[00:14:22] And the second one was that it was the only way to pursue their field of interest, uh, suggesting maybe that the, the colleges near them didn't have the classes they needed for them to continue their education. 

[00:14:33] Lige Hensley: That last bullet that you brought up about courses and, and being able to. The courses that you need online, I think is critical.

[00:14:40] I've seen this over the years for many years in, in data. When it comes to enrollment and student completion, the further you get along in your degree path, typically the, the harder it is to get those classes right. When we were in school, you could take that chemistry class or that biology class. It was offered 12 times a week by four different professors.

[00:14:58] But by the time you get to that [00:15:00] 500 level class, that class may only be offered once a year by the one professor that can. And so that worked for us. We were a captive audience. We were on campus living in the dorm or living close to campus, and it was, it was easier to do now that our society and our students are trained to take content in smaller chunks and they've got more going on in their lives, and especially with covid, they may have financial constraints or family commitments or.

[00:15:29] being able to meet the students where they need to be met is, is going to be a challenge for schools. That's something that we have to address if we want to see those completion rates continue. 

[00:15:37] Brendan Aldrich: We know that oftentimes with many colleges, when they're planning what courses they're gonna offer for an upcoming term, it can start with, well, what did we offer last year for this term?

[00:15:45] And then let's. Make some modifications based on some gut reactions. What we think, uh, what classes do we think are gonna be more needed, what faculty do we have available to teach these classes, things along those lines. It's generally not what classes are our students going to need next, [00:16:00] and let's make sure that we've got those available.

[00:16:01] Which leads to the, the problem that you were talking about, 

[00:16:04] Lige Hensley: well, think about the online experience that students are growing up with or people are growing up with today. They, they go online to. , they see that the item they want is not in stock and they immediately go to the next item. Mm-hmm. , they don't put that into their shopping cart.

[00:16:19] They don't think about it because they know it's not there. They immediately go to something else. So, of course, that a student may wanna take as soon as they see it's not offered. I mean, we're being trained from birth now to, for that immediate satisfaction. It's here. I can get it tomorrow. I can get it airdropped by a drone or whatever it may be.

[00:16:36] It's, I can get it right now. I can get in, I can get what I need. And that's what we're trained for. in our online lives. And so when a student sees a course as not available, what do our students do? Do they let us know? Are they signing up for a wait list? I mean, we're that, that's the equivalent to being back ordered.

[00:16:53] I mean, I mean, when was the last time you ordered something on online that was back ordered? Right, right. So I think there's a [00:17:00] lot of things that that need to be thought about a little bit more. And there's gonna have to be some changes to the way things are presented, to the way things are done in order to resonate.

[00:17:10] I mean, honestly what, what we're training people to do from the time they're, they're two years 

[00:17:14] Brendan Aldrich: old now. There are some bright spots to this picture. When we talk about enrollment. There's an increasing number of reports that are highlighting institutions where enrollment is now beginning to trend back up.

[00:17:23] Not necessarily to pre pandemic levels, but certainly up over where we've been. Some examples that include, uh, Bakersfield College who reported enrollment was up 11% for their recently completed fall term. Uh, the Illinois Board of Higher Education reported that freshman enrollment at Illinois Public Universities was up 5% this last fall, uh, with nine of the 12 institutions in the, uh, systems seeing increases.

[00:17:45] Uh, even Charles Robinson, the interim chancellor at the University of Arkansas was quoted the other month as saying that their enrollment was. 8.3% overall and first year enrollment rose by a record 17.1%. So my next question is, do you Elijah, [00:18:00] uh, have we hit the bottom? Are we starting to see enrollment, uh, increasing more broadly for 2023?

[00:18:05] Lige Hensley: Yeah, I mean, I think we've hit the bottom at this point. You know, the pandemic, which of course can be blamed for lots of things. The pandemic certainly had a, a huge impact on that. Uh, it's students of all levels from, you know, from k all the way to, to 16, if you will. So I do think we've hit the bottom.

[00:18:22] Brendan Aldrich: Absolutely. Well, and the last one I'm gonna mention only because it came out of my old home system. The new Cal Poly Humbold, which used to be Humboldt State University, saw a significant increase in first time undergraduate applications up 86% since last year, which is also. A very cool, very positive sign.

[00:18:37] Alright, last year we also saw the release. It was very exciting of Ed KO's First Horizon report for data and analytics, which for everybody listening is a fascinating read and it's available for free from the edika website. In the report, they focused on areas that they thought were going to be key for 2022 and beyond.

[00:18:54] The six areas were data management and governance, unifying data sources, [00:19:00] modern data architecture, data literacy training, d e I for data and analytics. And assessing and improving institutional data and analytics capabilities. So thinking about these, let's talk about the ways in which college and universities tend to think about or approach 

[00:19:15] Lige Hensley: data.

[00:19:15] To me, this is fascinating. Obviously it's my line of work, but I think it's also sort of the key to evolving in the future. So for me, this is, this, the exciting work that's that's happening in higher ed. Obviously I'm super interested in data, have been for a very long. and, and getting their arms around data and using it effectively, I think is, is absolutely gonna be critical to all higher ed going forward.

[00:19:38] There are schools out there that are doing great things and there are schools out there. To be honest, most schools out there want to do great things. It is going to be more of a challenge for some schools than others, but everybody I talk to, I mean, and I've talked to a lot of schools, everybody is on this bandwagon now and I think it's a good bandwagon to use an industry comparison.

[00:19:59] look at your [00:20:00] online retailers, your Amazons, your Targets, your Walmarts. They've been great at using data for a very long time and been pretty successful with it. Higher ed as an industry has struggled a bit, as we all know, but has gotten significantly better in the past couple years, and I think we'll continue to do better so that that edge of cause report, I think has spot on.

[00:20:19] Being able to get better use of data and better understanding out of data is key. And I, and I, I have a lot of faith that higher ed is going to do something that some of the other industries maybe haven't done, and that's, they're gonna put the human touch to it. They're not just gonna do what the machine tells 'em.

[00:20:34] They're gonna take that information as input and use their, you know, use their brains and their experience to apply that to their institutions, which I know a lot of retailers don't do. And sometimes that gets them in. But I'm very optimistic about how that's going to go in the next, in the next months and years.

[00:20:51] But I think it's spot on and it's very timely. It's, it's a critical, critically important thing to education and will continue to be so as, as things 

[00:20:58] Brendan Aldrich: move forward. Well, and you bring [00:21:00] up a great point, which is the idea that there are growing number of companies. That are using advanced technologies machine learning that are getting to AI, that are actually approaching schools and saying, don't worry about it.

[00:21:10] We're gonna tell you what to do. You and I have talked about some of the challenges with that because it's like, well wait a minute, but are you programming your platform to make recommendations you learned from a inner city community college that you're making to an Ivy League school? Or even, you know, the same in reverse, something you've learned from an Ivy League school and trying to think that that's going to have the same effect on a student that's, uh, maybe.

[00:21:32] Four year public school in Iowa. 

[00:21:38] Lige Hensley: Yeah. That, that kind of stuff is, is fascinating to me. I mean, from a vendor perspective, what you want to do is you wanna make a product and sell a bunch of 'em, right? It's the Henry Ford Sure. Mass production model. And when it comes to EdTech, it's, it's software. I wanna write this software once and I want to sell it as much as I can without having to tinker with it because it's, it's, you know, my profit margins are way better.

[00:21:59] [00:22:00] The challenge though, that I think a lot of folks miss is, . Every school is really different. You talk to vendors, you know, behind the scenes and they'll tell you, well, they're all really the same. You talk to the schools, they'll tell you that they're all very different. And I can tell you from being on both sides of the fence, schools are very different.

[00:22:16] Um, I always call it the soul of the school lives in their data. You can look at the data generated, what's in there, how it's being used, and you can see how these schools are just dramatically. And being able to adjust to that and being able to use that sensibly and what I call in context of the institution is, is the magic sauce, right?

[00:22:36] That is the key. But it's a long road and some schools are gonna have a a faster time than others and are more challenging time than others. Again, very optimistic that we're gonna see some great progress because everybody realizes that everybody is starting to get their arms around. . I think it's exciting.

[00:22:52] I think it's gonna enable administrators to do things they've never been able to do before, and ultimately if done properly or even [00:23:00] moderately properly, I think it's gonna help students be more successful, which is the point of all of it. And that's what I love 

[00:23:05] Brendan Aldrich: about the Edika report is it really does, when you take a look at those six categories, things like unifying data sources, modern data architecture, data management, and governance, it's really about all of the things you want to have in place in order to do great things with data.

[00:23:19] Uh, which brings us to something that you brought up, which is let's talk about some additional predictions, uh, and the first of which is artificial inte. It's long been a hot topic and also kind of a boogeyman for institutions. I mean, on one hand, AI can create a lot of fear in folks who see as it something like out of the Terminator movies, uh, you know, robots from the future that want to come take our jobs away from the rest of us.

[00:23:40] On the other hand, AI promises to be a great partner for students and faculty and staff and administration helping to automate repetitive processes and create new opportunities for everyone. What are some of your thoughts? . 

[00:23:52] Lige Hensley: Well, as you know, I'm a big fan of ai, but in, in what I would say in small doses, there are great use cases.

[00:23:58] The chatbots I [00:24:00] think, are great for a lot of, a lot of questions, but they're not a replacement for thoughtful human intervention. I think AI has got a great future in education. It can definitely help analyze data if, if leverage properly, it can help analyze data and inform researchers or inform administrators on, here's some things you may not have.

[00:24:20] I will probably never believe that AI is gonna be able to tell you what to do, and it's going to be right. I think what it can do is give that human the, the insight necessary to make the most informed and appropriate decision for whatever the situation is. And, and I think we're starting to see a little bit of that.

[00:24:38] We still have a long way to go, especially in education when it comes to AI and, and people leveraging it like that. It can be a bad thing if used poorly, but you know what? Everything can be a bad thing if used poorly. AI has a lot of power to help with all of that data that we've been talking about.

[00:24:54] Brendan Aldrich: Well, and I think what's interesting is you're talking about using AI in analytics and this AI analytics realm is [00:25:00] something that doesn't necessarily get discussed a lot. You know, we talk about chatbots, we talk about, uh, self-driving cars, and we talk about ethical dilemmas of things along those lines.

[00:25:09] But talk a little bit more about AI analytics, you know, so what is that exactly? 

[00:25:14] Lige Hensley: AI analytics is using artificial intelligence to analyze data, to tell me things I need to. , you know, we talked about, you know, our days working with hundred millions of rows of data per day. Right? And, and now I'm working with billions, billions of rows of data per day.

[00:25:28] That data comes from a lot of different places. It can be, um, structured data coming from an SSIS or an L m s. It could also be unstructured data coming from comments that are posted in discussion boards or, or just freeform text that students are entering in someplace. So when you're looking at that volume and variety of.

[00:25:49] And that data comes fast. So there's a velocity component as well. When you're looking at that much data that you, you can't possibly analyze it by yourself. This, you know, gone are the days where you [00:26:00] can load it into a spreadsheet, you know, and pivot it and do something with it. When you're in the billions of rows, you're gonna have trouble loading that.

[00:26:06] So you've gotta use a different tool, a different tool set to help you to sift through it. And to me, that's where AI analytics really shines the most. Give me data from hundreds of different data sources with lots of different s. And tell me what I need to know out of this that's gonna help me make a better decision.

[00:26:22] What's 

[00:26:22] Brendan Aldrich: meaningful, what's useful? Helping to kind of eliminate the rapid holes of analysis that don't provide useful paths forward. 

[00:26:33] Lige Hensley: Yeah. The one story I like to tell is of the, and this is made up story, but is of the professor that, that sees the best attendance from students that are wearing yellow jackets.

[00:26:43] Oh. Every day. The students with the yellow jackets are the ones that, that are always in. , well, it could be that it was raining that day. So when you get these anecdotal tidbits, sometimes it can lead you down these rabbit holes that really have no bearing on the problem that you're trying to solve. And I think that's where AI analytics can [00:27:00] really come in.

[00:27:01] It can take that anecdotal scenario that perhaps you heard in the cabinet meeting or you you heard from somebody on campus, and it can tell you is that. Uh, without having to spend three months researching or having your IR department research it for you. I mean, it, it's a way to sort of eliminate things that are, that are anecdotally important but not institutionally 

[00:27:22] Brendan Aldrich: important.

[00:27:22] Well, there was one that, that you and I found back in our days at Ivy Tech, which was the things that seem obvious in retrospect, like when you're taking a look at how students engage with the learning management system, you know, the one I'm talking about and talking about the different events they do and what event ends up being worth, surprisingly, a lot more than, than we thought.

[00:27:39] Lige Hensley: So there was this scenario where we were looking at the number of times the student checked their grades. And this is something we see in data honestly, across the country today. There are students that sadly will never check their grade, um, and maybe not until the end of the class, or at least hopefully at the end of the class.

[00:27:55] And then there are students that check their, uh, grades excessively, uh, that I would [00:28:00] say is excessively. So in a 16 week term, we would see students that have checked their grade upwards of 3000 times in 16 weeks. , the important part to that is it's not necessarily the student that's checking their grade.

[00:28:14] I mean, we, we believe, we like to believe it is, but it's whoever can log in. So maybe it's the student, maybe it's their parent or or wife or spouse or whatever. It could be someone else that's checking their grade for that student. But somebody cares an awful lot. And when we saw that behavior, yeah, we would see, generally speaking in A or a B, every single.

[00:28:33] No, but it's 

[00:28:34] Brendan Aldrich: also one of those things that you don't think about intuitively until you see it. And the, and the, and as we talked about, the AI analytics helps to surface things like that. And you go, oh, you know what, that makes sense. I just wouldn't have thought of checking that out first. Finding 

[00:28:47] Lige Hensley: those little things are great and the cases where they're valid, but finding them is not something that you can repeat easily.

[00:28:53] And that's really where I think AI analytics can. It could probably identify 20 of those things for you right [00:29:00] now. And then as things change, hopefully not with another pandemic, but as as we go forward into the future and new things happen that impact the students with AI analytics, you can have those tools.

[00:29:11] Help you find those nuggets of goodness as you go into the future, which just makes the insight and the decision making that much better. Yeah. I 

[00:29:18] Brendan Aldrich: love the idea of that, that AI analytics is really bringing you to the point where research starts. You've, you've helped to eliminate a lot of those rabbit holes of unproductive research, and it really just facilitates researchers to narrow down that scope of possible parameters to those that are most influential in those activities.

[00:29:34] Uh, things that might have taken the researcher as a human years can bring those down to days and, and even weeks. , let's tie that back into enrollment. So some institutions, as we've talked about, are seeing increases in enrollment and that may be a continuing trend. Are there examples, uh, of things that you're looking at now that help show how AI analytics is supporting research into those topics?

[00:29:56] Yeah. We're working 

[00:29:57] Lige Hensley: with a number of folks today that are doing some pretty [00:30:00] fascinating things around enrollment. Uh, one of them is something that we call shop, drop and enroll. And that's basically students that are looking. To buy, quote unquote, or looking to enroll or register for classes that don't.

[00:30:12] It's students that register for classes and then for whatever reason, drop them or drop them all and never actually enroll. And then of course, enroll is, is the goal to all of that. So there's some interesting work going on and in a, a variety of places, but looking at how students are behaving before they ever get into the class, what are they doing?

[00:30:30] I, we talked a little bit earlier about this concept of a shopping cart and, oh, wait a minute, this class is out of stock. I can't. , being able to detect that type of activity or that type of situation using data and shopping behavior or, or course browsing behaviors is something that, uh, we've got some schools that are working on now, and I think that's just absolutely phenomenal.

[00:30:53] Brendan Aldrich: One of the things we've, uh, discussed, you and I, is the impact of the student loan forgiveness program that's now going on with all of its [00:31:00] related legal challenges. Uh, but more importantly, What this kind of, of mass loan forgiveness might mean to students and the way they engage with education. This is an interesting 

[00:31:11] Lige Hensley: one for me because I'm, I'm curious how that impacts enrollment and how that impacts people completing a degree that maybe they haven't finished.

[00:31:20] Does that relieve the debt that allows you to finish the degree that you had started years ago? Does it allow you now to pursue that next degree, whether it's a bachelor's degree from an associate's or a master's from a. . I'm curious of what that's going to do, but I don't, I don't see that as being a bad thing.

[00:31:39] I think it's gonna enable at least some people to move forward where maybe they were hesitant to do so before. , 

[00:31:45] Brendan Aldrich: you know, that's a great perspective. It's, it's not about whether or not students should receive, uh, loan forgiveness. And I think that's really been the topic that we hear about in the news is, is this something that should be done?

[00:31:56] Is it what we should spend taxpayer dollars on? Is this fair? There's a lot [00:32:00] of that, but I, I, I don't think anybody's really ever talked about the subject in the same way, which is, is this going to help students that might be struggling under debt, reengage and complete their education? I think that's fan, that's fast.

[00:32:13] Lige Hensley: Well, I, I know if I ran a college, the first thing I would be doing is looking at my students that were close to completion, but weren't that either stopped out or dropped out or whatever, and I would be making contact with them to say, Hey, you know, if you haven't finished, maybe now's the time. I think there's an opportunity there to go to those students that were close, but maybe didn't quite get there and, and have a conversation.

[00:32:36] I, I'm not an expert at college administration, but I do think it opens the. for some more add for additional folks to complete. And, you know, let's see if we can help 'em 

[00:32:44] Brendan Aldrich: do it. We're getting to the end of our episode for today. So to wrap up some of the topics we've been talking about, as we look forward to the rest of this 2023 year, uh, we talked about non-traditional students and the need to better serve these students as colleges begin reversing the declining enrollment [00:33:00] trends from the last few.

[00:33:02] On that same subject, we do believe that we'll continue to see rising enrollment trends this year, but with a higher percentage of those students enrolled in online and distance courses, at least compared to what we saw pre pandemic. And that this will lead to the need for institutions to really begin thinking more specifically about how to differentiate themselves, uh, for these online students as compared to other institutions with online offering.

[00:33:27] We talked about the Educas Horizon report for data and analytics, which really is kind of a must read for everyone, uh, especially in the IT and institutional research areas. And that report is available to download for free from the edika website and how it really does. Pave that path forward for institutions to better use data and capitalize on those opportunities, including fairly new areas of focus like AI analytics, which doesn't replace the need for people, but we believe will empower the [00:34:00] humans, those of us in higher ed, to better support individual students success live.

[00:34:05] Always a lot of fun to get together and talk shop. Thanks so much for coming on the show and sharing your experiences. 

[00:34:10] Lige Hensley: Oh, thanks. It's been fun. I listened to your 

[00:34:12] Brendan Aldrich: podcast every week, . We'll have to do another show towards the end of the year and see how things have turned out. So for our listeners, we've been talking to Elij Hensley and talking about trends in higher education and technology.

[00:34:22] To kick off our 2023 podcast season, lej, if folks would like to continue the conversation, what's the best way for them to reach out to you? 

[00:34:31] Lige Hensley: Sure. I think the best way is either LinkedIn or my email address, which isly, l i g e, invoke learning.com 

[00:34:38] Brendan Aldrich: perfectly. Thanks again for coming on and being a guest with us here on the higher edge.

[00:34:42] Uh, for everybody else listening, I'm Brendan Aldridge and we'll talk soon. 

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