The new normal is anything but. College students have added daily doses of COVID concern to their already hefty load of responsibilities. With the academic calendar uncertain, schools have to work even harder to not only communicate with their students, but actually reach them and guide them to their goals. New York University has turned to careful planning and texting to make that happen.
John M. Burdick, PhD, Associate Director, Student Success, and Emily Peeler, Program Administrator, Student Success, are at the head of the initiative at NYU to stay connected with students. They lead a staff of about 8 Specialists - student-mentors enlisted to text fellow students. While John and Emily create and direct the text messages, the student Specialists send the texts through Cadence, higher ed’s premier texting platform, and engage with their peers.
Students need more than reminders
In May of 2020, NYU saw a need to reach the growing number of students who were studying and attending classes remotely. Instead of sending text updates about washing hands and staying socially distanced, the staff concentrated on giving students solutions to their obstacles, carefully planning messages of support.
NYU’s Student Success team has three broad types of texting content:
- Resource utilization
- Learning to learn/Academic support
- Holistic Development and General Support
There are times when a quick text is meant only to relay information and other times when the NYU staff intends to start conversations, build relationships, and learn how they can help their students.
The importance of being flexible
As the news cycle seems to offer a new and different obstacle each day, a higher ed staff needs to be ready to adapt. At NYU, the Student Success team will dedicate about an hour a week to discussing their communication calendar, anticipating potential changes, and adapting messages as necessary.
Helping staff and students alike
Engaging with college students and answering their questions is necessary, but time-consuming. The NYU Student Success department is always looking for ways to prevent overburdening their staff.
John and Emily keep their pulse on things to make sure their Specialists aren’t overworked. If Specialists are particularly taxed, the text messages sent that week will not require a lot of engagement.
Students can also be stressed out by too much information. NYU plans their messages around the academic calendar, avoiding texting during important times like midterm week.
NYU’s texting plan is working
The best way to gauge the effectiveness of a texting plan is to hear the reviews of your students. NYU sent out a survey to see if students found the text messages helpful. 78% of those surveyed have had a positive experience and only 2.5% viewed texts as a negative. In those responses, students used phrases like “cared for'' and “supported.” More than anything, NYU students found text messages an important part of navigating remote learning.
Want to learn more? Check out our case study - it includes an in-depth look at NYU’s texting plan, including statistics on specific texts with high engagement rates.