Monday, 19 December 2011

Presentation to JISC

A PowerPoint version of the presentation given to JISC by Debbie Cooke on 16 December is available to download.

Final project post

The issues

In a difficult market, we had to find every possible area for improvement. Student retention, particularly during year 1, was seen as an increasing threat:
  • The lost turnover represented by an early dropout is considerable - fees are usually waived and we lose the on-campus income also
  • Online case studies from various universities suggest dropouts often contribute negatively to word-of-mouth .  So, they impact on future recruitment
  • Ultimately, as a university charging an average of £7,500 in fees, Staffordshire has to improve its retention rate as part of its agreement with the Office of Fair Access
We wanted to find a way of improving students’ experience of their arrival at University & first few ‘exploratory weeks’.  That’s because we believe failure to settle in is one of the biggest causes of dropout:
  • Anecdotally, Union reps tell us this
  • Internet sources concur, e.g. ‘Homesickness’ is the second most common drop out reason related in case studies on The Student Room.  The first being ‘course issues’.
We can’t control course quality directly, as marketers – but we can ensure as much familiarity with the University as possible.

What we did

Failing to make students feel part of the University before, and immediately after arrival is thus a major contributor to dropouts.
  • Enrolment notoriously busy, chaotic - individualised attention varies
  • Experience showed students did not always read printed/e-mail information provided prior to arrival
  • Such media incapable, anyway,  of providing a true sense of the physical environment and experiences awaiting
  • We needed to bring key information to the fingertips of new students in a more engaging fashion
  • To improve the feeling of belonging, improve ‘orientation’ and make students feel ‘at home’ as quickly as possible
  • We chose an online game


  • Total potential players (2011 UK enrolment only) was 3,600
  • The game was played around 2700 times.  (This will include people re-visiting their saved games). 
  • The stats for the number of players who entered the enrolment hall for the first time was 1,865 (62.2%  of total audience).
  • Individual usage is impossible to precisely establish but this figure is likely to reflect total participation. 
  • Percentage of withdrawals v.’s 2010 equivalent was 5/6 of the previous year’s figure, a minimal change...albeit for the better!
  • However with a negative prognosis at the outset on retention we feel reasonably positive.
Even with a modest improvement ROI is positive in year 1.
  • 9.94 students is the ‘projected loss’ we would have suffered between September & October if 2011 withdrawal figure of 0.87% had equalled that of the previous year – 1.15%
  • We can take a reasonable average for annual fees, and add to that our calculations of the share the University makes from each students’ annual cost of living (as assessed by our Students’ Union)
  • Even without any government penalties that may/may not be incurred by loss of a student, the turnover involved is £149,100
  • Game cost £28,000