Web Analytics for Higher Education: My First Online Course

Note: I was not asked to write this blog post, nor did I receive any compensation. I’m taking this opportunity to tell others about a professional development experience that I found to be extremely valuable.

I believe a mark of a good leader (or employee) is recognizing what you do not know. This fall, it became quite clear to me that my lack of knowledge regarding web analytics was impacting my ability to effectively advertise online and assess our campus website. A conversation with Karine Joly about Facebook ads was just one instance that helped me come to that realization.

While in the midst of developing my departmental budget and marketing plan, I realized the need for expanded knowledge regarding analytics corresponded with the availability of some professional development funds. After discussing it with my supervisor, we decided that I would enroll in the Web Analytics for Higher Ed  course from HigherEdExperts.com. After my conversation with Karine, I was confident that the courses offered through her website would be legitimate, thorough,  and immediately applicable to my professional environment.

Although I was confident in the quality of the coursework in which I would engage, I have to admit I was still a bit skeptical about online education. In graduate school I was enrolled in a “blended” course that required approximately 50% of the work to be done online. I was almost always the student turning in her assignment approximately 90 seconds before they were do (which was inevitably midnight). I rushed to get work done and didn’t spend time on the content. Given that my department was spending several hundred dollars on the course, I knew that could not be the case this time around.

I’m writing this blog post because the course more than exceeded my expectations. I was in need of a quick injection of targeted knowledge relevant to my job, and this course delivered. The expectations of the course are clearly communicated prior to signing up. I truly think any student that follows the recommended study guidelines will be successful.

Higher Ed Experts recommends that its students spend an average of ten hours per week on coursework. This is not an over-estimation. Although there were weeks when I wasn’t able to dedicate quite that much time, those were the weeks when I barely got the assignment turned in on-time and didn’t get to dig into the content as deeply as I would have liked. Being only a 4-week course, it goes quickly. Getting behind in the first or second week will affect you for the rest of the course.

Briefly, I’d like to share why this course was a good option for me:

  • Excellent, accessible instructor. Joshua provided the structure necessary for a basic learning experience, and was available to answer additional questions and go more in-depth.
  • Useful assignments. Each assignment could easily have been a task I actually performed within the scope of my job. Nothing was “pie in the sky” – everything applied to what I was doing right now.
Analytics Dashboard

My first analytics dashboard featuring custom KPI’s – the final assignment from this course.

  • Informative resources. The text we used for the course was excellent, and will remain a reference for me in the future. The instructor also pointed out additional resources online that helped fill in any gaps.
  • Quality conversation with classmates. Participation in the course discussions was required, and since we were all dedicated professionals that discussion was quite valuable.
  • Quick knowledge acquisition. Although I have a lot to learn when it comes to web analytics, in just four weeks I acquired the basic knowledge I would need to evaluate the goals of a campus website, improve the tracking of my marketing campaigns, and assess progress toward web content and marketing goals at a glance.

Could I have learned all of this content on my own? Probably. However, the structure of the course and its immediate applicability to my work gave me the framework and motivation I needed to meet the course goals in just over a month. A highly-motivated person could probably gain the same knowledge through self-study, but I’m not sure I would have synthesized the information on my own in ways that were relevant to work in higher education. The week after I finished this course I attended a session at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education about web analytics, and I was happy to find out that my knowledge outpaced much of those in the room with me.

If you’re looking to get beyond descriptive analytics reports detailing the number of visitors and page views on your website and start to apply some strategy relevant to your business goals, I’d recommend trying this course. The next session starts January 22, 2013. Higher Ed Experts offers a variety of other courses if you’re looking to develop expertise in another content area.

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  1. Pingback: Facebook Custom Audiences: Opportunities for College Recruitment | Liz Gross

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