University student personas enable personalised support and communications

University student personas enable personalised support and communications

Our Work | Case Study

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This world-leading Australian university hosts more than 60,000 students, more than a third of whom are from overseas.

Previous student personas were not effective

The university faced challenges understanding its diverse student base and drawing meaningful conclusions at scale. To achieve this it sought to develop student personas, or archetypal groupings of students with similar characteristics; however, previous personas were missing information on how many students were represented in each persona and were not co-designed with end-users, so their usefulness was limited. The university sought Nous’ help to develop a set of personas to articulate students’ identity and needs and how to find them and help them achieve their goals.

We combined data with interviews to understand student activity

We developed student personas using data to enhance their rigour, remove preconceptions and biases, quantify demographics and clearly represent different student groups. We:

  1. ran workshops with the personas’ users to understand the student characteristics and behaviour patterns they wanted to know
  2. developed a template that would guide the personas’ content and provide a scope for data to gather
  3. gathered data on over 60,000 students’ behaviours, backgrounds and uses of different systems and services – including numerical data, such as how often students logged into the online learning environment; and categorical data, such as whether the student completed specific tasks on time – at a specific point in the student’s journey
  4. conducted cluster analysis, using machine learning to identify similar groups of students; reducing bias and introducing the level of rigour and quantification that is missing from purely qualitative personas
  5. used one-on-one targeted interviews to gain further insights into the drivers underlying student needs and behaviours at points in their journeys.

We ultimately developed a set of seven personas with 14 supporting stories to highlight the differences within a single persona ‘cohort’. The personas can be further developed over time by tracking students through their university journey and adding new data points.

Our personas provided deep and practical behavioural insights

Our personas have supported a range of uses, including developing new content and pathways on the website and student portal. They are regularly consulted when designing new services, enhancing service models and onboarding new staff. Over time the university will be able to influence the path of the student throughout their journey to better support them to achieve their educational, social and career goals while at university and ensure they are maintained as loyal and engaged alumni beyond their studies.

What you can learn from the university

Combining data with behavioural insights can provide a rich understanding of behavioural drivers.

Understanding behavioural drivers allows for services to be tailored, improving the customer experience and ultimately business outcomes.

It is important to consider users’ needs when developing business tools.