Jason Melton
February 27, 2017

Beyond Email: New Ways To Connect With Students

College and university staff members — stop that email blast you are about to send to your students.  I have been in your shoes.  I have written those emails hoping to get students more engaged with the campus, attend an event or join an organization. I have spent hours reading and rereading the message.  I’ve asked others for their feedback and to answer the questions,  Will this one resonate with the students? Will this drive student engagement?

You envision that moment when they open the email and subsequently connect with another student,  faculty member, alumnus, or university professional in a meaningful way.  It will be serendipitous. And you played a role in that.  It was because they read your message and they took action.  And it’s because of that new connection that their life will be forever changed.  And that is the major reason we are all involved with higher education.  We want to help students find their path and maximize this investment in their future.

When I was the Assistant Director of an MBA program, and we wanted to engage with our students, we often immediately sprung into action and sent an email.  With more than 200 students, we emailed to solicit feedback on topics, invite them to participate in the MBA student association, announce networking events, etc. Students responded and took action from these emails less than 1% of the time — which quickly led to me realizing that emailing students was not the solution for engagement. This conclusion was further validated through research conducted by Bowling Green State University last year.  The research indicated that 72% of students treat emails from student organizations as spam and avoid the messages.  Furthermore, 54% said the same about emails from the university and academic departments.  So how are we to make them aware of events and/or organizations and get them engaged in campus activities? Email cannot be the only way that institutions can connect with students.

At any moment throughout the day, you can walk through campus to find students focused fiercely on their phones. At least 86% of undergraduates own a smartphone. So, what if you could get announcements and notifications into the palm of each student’s hand?  What if your communication strategy was multi-pronged and mobile-first instead of simply mobile friendly?

I know as a former administrator, a faculty member, and an organizational leader, it would have adjusted the way I communicated with the student populations I worked with. I would have leveraged a wider variety of communication platforms and focused on curating content that connected with students at the right time in the right way rather than inundating students with an email (or two) a day. The evolution of mobile technology now allows for apps to go beyond simply a shrunken website to truly be the core of student communication, which ultimately drives student engagement. I am thrilled to join the team at ClearScholar who is leading the way in this mobile student engagement revolution.    

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