Temporal Data Insight Report

August 1st 2014 – July 31st 2016

The browsing habits of non-traditional students searching for higher education degree programs has changed over the last few years in respect to the month of the year, day of the week, and time of the day. With mobile device usage becoming more common and prospective students having the capability to search for degrees they are interested in, it was expected that consumers would be more likely to browse during traditional non-working hours. However, this proved to be incorrect, and it was found that the months, days, and hours that people in this sample were searching had low variance. The graphs throughout this report confirm the aforementioned browsing habits from years 2015 to 2016, as well as 2012 to 2016.

Month of the Year

The months of the year in which potential students are browsing varied significantly more than both the day of the week and the hour of the day. Despite this monthly variation, there still appears to be a recognizable trend to the high and low-traffic months for non-traditional continuing education websites in each year analyzed.

In all three years of the collected sample data, the month of January had the highest percentage of website visits — each reaching slightly over 10%. April and March were close behind in 2016, although being slightly lower in the previous years. As displayed in figures 1 and 2, the most explicit change in the volume of traffic occurs over the summer months of June and July. These fell within the slowest three months for all three years, with December remaining the third. There was a peak in August each year, indicating the beginning of the Fall semester; however, the remaining months were fairly consistent.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

The first reasonable determination one can observe from the peaks and valleys is that students, even non-traditional students, do not typically research degree programs during school breaks, i.e. the summer and winter. Instead, the data reports the first month of each standard semester to be the most popular, especially January following the formation of New Year’s resolutions. March and April’s higher traffic volume is more puzzling, though the spike may be caused by the onset of fall semester applications. These observations could potentially allow for an allocation of advertising funds from when school is not in session to the beginning of each semester in order to attract interested students for the succeeding term.

Day of the Week

The day of the week analysis shows how browsing habits have remained consistent over the three years, even with advances in technology making it more convenient to research instantly. As figure 3 shows, there was an astonishingly low variance for consumers’ browsing habits between 2015 and 2016. This is also evident in figure 4 between years 2012 and 2016.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 4

While this was not expected, the findings have positive implications for marketing purposes. With consumers consistently browsing on the same days of the week, each week of the month, and each month of the year, it becomes easier to coordinate outreach efforts. Based on this analysis, there is a very clean trend of high website traffic during the beginning of the week, which then decreases each subsequent day, reaching a minimum on the weekends.

For practical purposes, the findings suggest that potential students are the most interested in exploring continuing education on Mondays and Tuesdays, likely before they get caught up in their weekly duties. Therefore, advertisements and direct personal contact with prospective students would be most effective on a Monday or Tuesday, when an individual is recharged from the weekend with the idea of furthering their career still fresh in the mind. Delaying outreach until mid-week or the weekend could result in missed communication.

Hour of the Day

Perhaps the most fascinating outcome of this analysis is that the hour of the day that people are likely to browse hardly changed across the three years of the data sample. This came as a surprise, but it again indicates that non-traditional students have predictable schedules in which they generally research higher education options.

Figures 5 and 6 show the hours in which the visitors spend the most time browsing. Immediately observable is the peak hours for web traffic are during normal work hours, especially between 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM. This corresponds with the lack of browsing performed on the weekends shown in the day of the week report; it seems as though non-traditional students who are considering earning a degree are likely to complete their research while at work. This makes reasonable sense, as an individual who is unhappy at their current job would be motivated to research potential paths to improve their situation.

Figure 5

Figure 5

Figure 6

Figure 6

The highest percentages of traffic took place between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM, with each hour capturing around 7% of the total daily views. Within the same block, there is a slight valley at 12:00 PM, likely due to lunch breaks. After 1:00, website traffic begins to decrease slowly up until 3:00 PM when it drops sharply. 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM are slow hours, though there is a small peak at 8:00 PM, likely after consumers have arrived home and finished dinner.

For marketing purposes, this indicates that the late morning work hours are the most frequent time for non-traditional students to be actively interested in continuing their education. Therefore, planning advertisements to be released around 10:00 AM, or sending correspondence between 9:30 AM-10:30 AM, could lead to a direct increase in consumer response from recruitment.