Communicate Effectively With Your Students via Text Messaging

Published: Oct. 22, 2018, 3:45 p.m.

While there are many traditional methods of communication that are used in schools and will continue to be used for years to come, there are also new means to speak with students that are proving to be effective. While nothing will ever quite match a teacher standing in front of the students and delivering a lecture or explaining something patiently, emails are now a common tool for distributing messages and queries; and text messages are beginning to prove popular too. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that most students are pretty regularly attached to their phones and are very comfortable talking over text. This means they receive the message and comprehend it, rather than being daunted by wordy emails or formal language. The following show how text messaging is an effective way to communicate with your students. Texts Are Time-Efficient The majority of text messages – roughly 90% - are read within 10 minutes of being received. Very few schools and universities can make similar claims about their email services or student portals, and messages there are often missed or overlooked. Recent results from a Sonoma State University Case Study show that students are much more likely to read and act upon texts. They receive them in time to realize when they have a deadline, which is sometimes missed when updates are sent via email. Plus, since texts are stored on a students’ phones, they can always quickly access their reminders, or save them to the calendar they always have with them on their smartphones. This study showed that students were more organized and efficient after receiving text reminders, and indicated that this could be a useful step for universities all over the country to take. When you start implementing a text message service, be sure to hold training sessions, or at least information sessions, with both teachers and students, in order for everyone to be on the same page when it comes to using the text service. This minimizes the risk of miscommunication while using the service, and everybody is aware of how and why the service is being used, and how to use it properly so everybody benefits from it. Mass Communication is Key While emails can be sent out to large groups, there is often repeated confusion in terms of the ‘reply all’ button, and each email takes a little more time to reply to. With texts, you can text hundreds of people simultaneously and it’s then very easy for recipients to respond to individual replies without losing track of who they’ve talked to or getting bogged down with replies. Plus, there is no more confusion about who exactly students are replying to, and if they have a question about a message, they’re more comfortable submitting it over text than over email. One of the benefits of organizing students through mass communication was also shown by a Longwood University Case Study, which used texts to organize student volunteers who were helping out with the 2016 Vice Presidential debate. It is much easier to coordinate students through text than through any other platform, especially because you can be confident that they have actually received your messages. There’s Less Spam over Text Students receive a lot of messages over email and a lot of them are just ignored. They know that they receive updates from the university that they aren’t interested in at all, and they may, therefore, miss updates that matter. By using texts, you can filter out all of the irrelevant information, and instead ensure that students have the messages that are actually essential to them. No matter how or why you plan on implementing your service, it’s important to give students the chance to opt out if they don’t want to use it. However, to avoid a mass opt-out where a lot of students may be missing out on important information, be sure to highlight to them the benefits of including themselves in the service. Simplify Your Communication By using mass texts, your school’s admin staff can save a lot of time and money. If relevant information has been uploaded to a website, you can even text your students so they know where to find the details they need. This may sound excessive, but an Iowa State University Case Study has found that by using text updates they have seen massive increases in blog traffic. This is because a simple text can effectively inform a student about something they’re interested in, or even where to find something that they actually need. Stay Ahead of Competitors Now a few schools have started using texts as a method of communication, and it is a trend that will catch on. “So you have a choice – do you get left behind or wait until the last minute to keep up with your competitors, or do you stay ahead of the curve by implementing modern and useful practices as early as possible, and mastering how to use them efficiently while everyone else catches up?” explains Gene O'Neill, an Educator at Studydemic. Overall, texting may sound strange for a university environment, but it is a remarkably effective and efficient means of distributing important information. One of the best ways to assess a text service is to list out why you would need it in your school. Perhaps you want to educate students with information about events and what’s going on, provide updates about the university’s services, have an emergency text service for dangerous circumstances, or even provide news. Once you’ve established why you want a text service, it will be much easier to implement it. Ask Your Students What Works Best Whether you’ve been communicating with your students via text messages for some time, or you’re just starting to introduce the service, it’s always best to talk to your students about how they feel about the service and how it can be improved. Some students may love the service, and some may hate it. Some students may require more information and more long-form messages to understand what’s going on (especially since text messages tend to be short-form). Make sure you’re open to feedback and criticisms on the service on how to improve it. Some students will need to be catered to differently, and this will depend entirely on their individual circumstances, so always be open to listening to their responses. About the Author: Freddie Tubbs is a tutor at Academ advisor. He regularly takes part in educational webinars and contributes articles to the Vault blog.