Opinion piece – Dr. Teri Higgins, PhD
As institutions across New Zealand enter the 2018 Orientation period, I find myself reflecting on my time as Associate Director of Residence, where at this time of the year I would be about to embark on a journey with a brand new set of incoming freshmen.
As Residence Life staff we have to be visible, be available and be alert. I like to think of us as ‘professional multitaskers’, managing a team of RAs, coordinating events, programming academic support initiatives and providing pastoral support to a cohort of students who are living away from home for the first time. It’s crucial that we quickly establish effective means of communication with our new students. We need to catch their attention at orientation: the critical moment when they are motivated to participate, eager to learn and are actively seeking to establish new interactions and friendships.
Looking back, I recall my own frustrations in trying to find an effective means to communicate with my students. While email reached some, others often ignored my messages. In an attempt to reach these students, I turned to posters and tv screens, as well as social media. Facebook was a useful tool, but students were often reluctant to blur the lines between their social space and their academic network. In hindsight, being able to send my residents targeted push notifications (individual, cohort, mass) would have been a simple solution. Meeting students where they were already: on mobile.
With Gen Z embarking on tertiary careers across the globe, it is perhaps more important than ever that universities and polytechnics begin adopting targeted push notifications and personalized mobile messaging. Several of our OOHLALA partner institutions have already put this method of direct communication into practice and have been met with positive results.
Peter Goodman, Director of Student Life at San Diego Christian College, notes that while email still plays an important role for sharing important information and documents, push notifications can provide another, more immediate avenue for communicating and engaging with students:
“[Push Notifications] are the best way for us to send out quick reminders about events and activities. While we do still send email (that no one checks anymore…) and hang posters, a push notification pops right up on [the student’s] phone reminding them. I like to send [push notifications] out the day of, sometimes even a few hours before an event is set to begin. Students are pretty busy and often want to attend things we are doing but just forget or don’t know about them.”
Student Success Counsellor at Nova Scotia College of Early Childhood education, Katrina Braun, views OOHLALA’s push notifications as an integral part of daily communication:
“At NSCECE we find that push notifications are the most effective way to communicate with our entire student body. The OOHLALA platform makes the process simple and quick! We use them in various scenarios such as reminding students of upcoming events like Team Challenges and Success Seminars. They are also extremely helpful when we need to get a message across to everyone quickly, such as school closures.”
Despite being an exemplary method for disseminating important campus information quickly, push notifications don’t have to be limited to administration; they can be a fun and innovative way to build campus culture. Whether used as a forum for supporting your school’s sports team or encouraging school spirit (“Go Wolves Go!”), a place for sharing helpful health and wellness reminders (“It’s hot out, don’t forget to drink water!”), or a way to celebrate campus history (“Happy 150th Birthday OUSA!”), push notifications can be a game-changing tool for any higher-ed administrator.
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