Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Email and the Void
Has anyone out there found a way to get students to use their college email on a regular basis? Right now, far too much crucial information is falling into the void.
I'm not disagreeing, but I am saying that triage happens, and sometimes the triage is wrong.
The problem is that, based on my best guess from the nature of things that I get from the college's PR office, they get more junk from the college than useful content.
The last part really stuck with me. During my grad student days, communicating grad student events (modern day equivalent of brownies from grandma) only worked if word-of-mouth was part of the strategy. Food and drinks by themselves were not enough. It had to come with a peer stamp of approval. Student associations/groups were a goldmine for word of mouth, because it's a forum of the most active and vocal students on campus.
The other thing you can do, with more limited success, is to restrict your e-mail frequency. My alma mater had a mass blast restriction of 1 per semester. Even senior admin was kept to this. Department admin send out 1 per hour, and they generally get triaged *nod to above comment*. Emails from senior admin were rare, and they got an actual read.
Lastly, e-mail headlines are key. Admin/legal types are especially bad for this. As a general rule: buzzfeed good, office memo bad. We used to get one about a racist incident on campus (always in September) from the president. "Notice about incidents of inappropriate conduct on our campus" is snoozeville. The admin's e-mail was usually entitled "racism on campus", which was much more effective at getting people to read e-mails.
In short: Send e-mails infrequently, with a VERY succinct headline, and complement emails with word of mouth.
One interesting thing I've heard is that they would like to hear about things like the add/drop deadlines from me on their class email lists, even though they get email from the Registrar's Office about it. Seems like a custom email is more effective than the institutional one.
Supposedly they pay attention to text messages, but the moment we start migrating everything to text and they get too many texts, you can count on them to triage that communication channel.
Alternatively, do you have an actual bulletin board somewhere prominent on campus, where you can post notices with large fonts on colorful paper? Or, as a last resort, a PA system? I wouldn't use it for a whole list of "announcements" but "Attention students. Tomorrow is the registration deadline please check your university email for more details," seems reasonable, played a couple of times per day.
For the most important messages, you probably ought to do all of the above.
"The actual growth has occurred mostly in three areas: IT, financial aid, and students with disabilities. The former is a predictable outgrowth of technical change, and the latter two are entirely compliance-driven. Critics of “bloat” are invited to specify which of those three areas is inessential."
I'm specifying IT. If our IT department can't provide a product superior to the multitude of free email services available then they should stop providing that service. Forcing our students to use it is antithetical to our eleemosynary duty.
I agree with you up to a point on using email to make reminders of important class-related information. However, my experience recently in a summer class I teach has indicated to me that a fairly significant number of them either don't read (or worse, don't care) what they're being sent. In a class of approximately 30 students this summer, 21 of them did not submit the first assignment by the due date. With the first reminder, that dropped to 8, then 5 with the third reminder. I still have two students who have not done so.
I sent those reminders with read receipt on them--they're reading them, but just not doing what they're supposed to, either because they haven't done the work or because they think that it doesn't apply to them (I have been reluctant to send 21 separate "customized" emails to individual students). I've had at least two tell me "I thought I already submitted it." And then STILL not come up with the assignment when I indicated that they had not submitted it.
Some of it's lack of maturity, other priorities, but I think a good portion of it is that
a) they often don't check their college email regularly
b) when they do check it, it's on their phone, so they're less likely to be able to follow up, and once the email is "read", it's as good as deleted (because they've forgotten it by the time they're at a laptop).