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UW—Madison Streamlines Lifelong Learning Decisions with Real-Time Labor Data

“This information helps prove that were educating students for something thats relevant to todays workforce … This allows us to advise on program curriculum, message appropriately to potential students, and target our advertising more effectively,” David Giroux

Former Director, University of Wisconsin—Madison Division of Integrated Marketing Communications

The Client

The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies serves more than 10,000 students annually with flexible, learner-driven courses and programs. The division provides leadership, administrative oversight, program development, marketing and recruiting for hundreds of non-credit and credit courses and programs delivered online and on campus.

The Challenge

As part of the Division of Continuing Studies’ 2020 Strategic Plan, its team embarked on three major goals: 

  1. Create opportunities for transformative experiences and meaningful learning for every lifelong learner who interacts with UW–Madison 
  2. Reach more lifelong learners annually 
  3. Generate additional annual lifelong-learning revenue  

To meet these goals the UW–Madison team focused its efforts on: 

  1. Developing the right learning content at the right time for the right audience at the right price 
  2. Expanding its definition of and growing its pool of lifelong learners 
  3. Assessing the demand and revenue potential of existing programs in the professionally focused portfolio as well as new course and program ideas brought forward from academic partners across the institution 

Historically, the Division of Continuing Studies evaluated new lifelong learner markets as well as new course and program opportunities by spending 10 to 20 hours manually pulling data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), industry association reports, and Google searches for relevant articles. Division of Continuing Studies staff members would then spend two weeks or longer preparing multiple-page reports on new proposed program ideas. The team found that their program proposal development process took too long to prepare analyses and reports for more than just a few studies each planning cycle.   

Additionally, the program proposals could not confidently assess the market potential for more nuanced or cutting-edge program ideas that were not yet well documented in public data sources like BLS, NCES, and annual industry reports. UW–Madison did not have access to a dataset that tracked emerging trends in the labor market across any industry, job type, or education level to help it build and offer “the right learning content at the right time for the right audience at the right price.”

The Solution

In 2017, the Division of Continuing Studies began using the Labor Insight™ product from Burning Glass Technologies to quickly and easily track evolutions in the labor market, both nationally and regionally, to inform course and program decision-making. 

“We now have a systematic way to go through all of Labor Insight’s reporting options. When I first started using Labor Insight, I would do simple data pulls. Now that I’m more familiar with the tool I spend about eight hours cutting data in interesting ways to really delve into the driving skills,” said Betsy Strahin, market research analyst at UW–Madison. “I can also pull out the NCES data, which is fantastic! I used to have to download each year of data to manually calculate the percentage change, and now Labor Insight does it for me!” 

Using Burning Glass as a trusted, third-party source of information has helped the team become an integral resource for the program development process, enabling departments to make data-driven decisions. The additional data and insights into its program reporting (job demand, salaries, occupations, regional demand, employers, skill gaps, industry) are also improving its program pricing, naming, and learning outcomes.

“These reports help stakeholders prepare for conversations and ultimately help make informed decisions on where to invest our limited resources. This information helps prove that we’re educating students for something that’s relevant to today’s workforce. It also helps get the rest of faculty on board with program curriculum enhancements.” David Giroux

The University of Wisconsin–Madison

Program Marketing and Recruitment 

In addition to using Burning Glass’ Labor Insight research platform for evaluating opportunities, the Division of Continuing Studies is using labor market information for program marketing and recruitment.  One of these efforts has included the development of 72 infographics about the unit’s professional master’s and graduate certificate programs for its website. The infographics include insights from recent job postings, advertised salaries, and projected national employment growth affiliated with professionally focused programs supported by Continuing Studies’ Advance Your Career portal.

“With Burning Glass, we are able to see where students could end up and let that drive our marketing efforts. Before, we relied on anecdotal information from program staff to understand who learners were and what they were doing after completing our programs. Now, we have third-party data that can tell us what jobs people with skills developed in our programs can work in, where those jobs are, and what co-occurring skills students need. This allows us to advise on program curriculum, message appropriately to potential students, and target our advertising more effectively,” said Giroux.

Helping Campus Partners  

Other schools and divisions within UW–Madison have begun going to the Division of Continuing Studies for help increasing enrollment of existing programs. “They are looking for assistance, support, and guidance on how to get more students in seats,” said Giroux.   The Continuing Studies team helps those schools grow other programs and start promotional campaigns. “Our team is able to build profiles based on Burning Glass’ data for each program that campus partners need. And we’re able to turn these reports around in just a few hours,” said Giroux.

Whats Next?  

By using Burning Glass’ labor market data, the Division of Continuing Studies has become proactive rather than reactive. “We use this information to push other schools and divisions within UW–Madison to grow their programs and show them other available opportunities,” said Giroux. “We plan to use Labor Insight’s ‘snapshot report’ to find gaps in campus programs and see which programs we need to expand.” In addition, the Division of Continuing Studies plans to use overlap in the program profiles they built to influence future ‘themed’ campaigns.

Key Takeaways

UW–Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies:  

  • Cut their data analysis time in half using Burning Glass data. 
  • Built 72 infographics and incorporated labor market information more fully into its marketing and recruitment practices to clearly communicate return on investment for programs to prospective students.  
  • Increased the amount of data and analysis provided in its reports to stakeholders, allowing them to make better-informed decisions.  
  • Extended help to other areas of campus to improve the student enrollment and matriculation experience.