New Mobile Phone Texting System for communicating with Students
In a pilot project last year, 14 departments/service units actively used the system, sending over 9000 messages in all. The system was very well received by both staff and students, and was used in a variety of ways, for example, alerts to cancelled or moved lectures, arranging meetings, and sending query/warning messages about class attendance/performance. Key points are that almost all students carry a phone at all times, they check it regularly, they don’t mind receiving useful texts from us, and they seem to respond very quickly. You can read more in the report about the pilot submitted to Education Policy & Strategy Committee earlier this year.
The Student Texting Service
- The system uses student mobile phone numbers garnered from the Websurf system. Senders use Student ID numbers to indicate the recipients, and there are ways of sending to whole classes using class codes and also to arbitrary groups of students, by cutting/pasting Student ID lists from other applications, e.g. Excel.
- The system is accessed via a web system much like webmail. All staff will have access, using their GUID.
If you have a GUID, you can try the system out now. The system is live, so please avoid sending test messages, unless it is to a forewarned student, such as one of your local PhD students. You can call up class lists and such like, and draft messages – just don’t press Send at the end.
Texts do of course cost money – even purchasing in bulk, they are around 5p each, and so texting a class of 200 will cost £10. The University is currently covering the costs of all texts – this will be reviewed after a year’s use.
Further to the cost, feedback from students highlights a crucial point: the texting service should only be used for messages that are important to the majority of student recipients. ‘Important’ is of course a complex judgement call, but this feedback means that we as the senders need to think carefully about how we use the system so as to avoid alienating students.
Below are issues that your department should consider:
- How will you make departmental staff aware of this system?
- How will you alert your students, as a courtesy, to the likelihood of their receiving texts from you?
- A range of standard events could be considered that will trigger the use of texting, e.g. cancellation of classes, alerts to poor attendance and so on. Who would put together such a list?
- For each event, who has the responsibility for sending the text(s)? Is it secretarial, technical or academic staff?
- The system is easy to use and relatively self-explanatory – but would you like your staff to receive any training? A few lunchtime drop-in sessions can be arranged, if demand is high.