Everyday Analytics in #highered: tools and tips by Michelle Tarby (@tarbym) from Le Moyne College

January 14th, 2013 Karine Joly No Comments

Michelle TarbyMichelle Tarby, Director of Web Services at Le Moyne College, is one of the 12 higher ed professionals presenting at the 1st higher ed analytics conference. She doesn’t work full-time on analytics as she is in charge of many things at her institution. Yet, she has embraced analytics to demonstrate success of online initiatives and progress toward achieving desired online goals.

In this 3-question interview, Michelle tells us about her biggest success story with analytics, favorite tool and a great tip you can use.

1) What is your biggest win using analytics?

Thinking about it, there have been a ton of small wins on our campus, but the biggest recent win would be implementing changes to our admission page’s information architecture based on analytics.

Time and again, I’ve seen those conversations be consumed with “well we think a,b,c is happening”. Now we’ve shifted our process to taking traffic data and looking at trends to verify what we’re suspecting is an issue. We thought about exits, navigation summaries, mobile trends and pages that were getting overlooked. But just as important is tracking your changes and measuring whether you’ve achieved your goals, which was also a priority for this project.

2) What is your favorite analytics tool? Why is it so useful in your higher ed job?

I’ve used a bunch of different software packages, but for me, nothing beats Google Analytics in terms of ease of use, ability to schedule reports to share across campus, and the dashboard of key indicators.

The segments I’ve been going to the most on campus lately are the mobile and tablet segments, as it seems like every day I’m getting a request for patterns in traffic from our mobile and tablet users, what the device breakdown is, if their use differs from our more traditional users, etc.

I’ve also built segments to track our ad campaigns and admission regional events impact traffic to the site. We use a lot of referral data as well, looking for patterns in use and differences in behavior when someone comes from a college guide site vs a social network.

3) What is the most important piece of advice you could give to a colleague starting with higher ed analytics?

I think the most important advice (especially for Armies of One) is not to worry about not being able to spend a lot of time working with your analytics tools. If you take the time to first talk to the decision makers on your campus, you’ll get a sense of what’s important for them to see. Then instead of sifting through all the great stats you have at your disposal, you can focus what time you have on what’s going to have the biggest impact, because it’s certainly easy to get lost in all that data.

It’s all about having context. Another piece of advice I’d share would be to be careful providing the powers that be a blanket report from your analytics tool without giving an explanation of what they’re looking at. I’ve typically found it’s more effective to spend the time pulling out your key points with explanation than forwarding a pdf or spreadsheet.