Flood Insurance: 3 Steps for Tackling Your Campus Email Deluge

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Ten years ago, shortly after getting married, my husband walked in the kitchen one evening looking out-of-sorts. He had just received a phone call from the admissions office at the university we were both attending. His financial aid had not been approved. My heart sank, “how did this happen?” I questioned him indignantly, not out of frustration at him, but how could the university let this happen? We completed our financial aid at the same time. There must have been a mistake. As the questions rolled off my tongue, out of the corner of my eye I caught him shaking his head. “I missed an email,” was all he said. That simple four-word sentence cost us an entire semester’s tuition OUT. OF. POCKET.

Maybe you don’t have a financial aid horror story. Maybe your story involves a mix-up of dorm room assignments or graduating credits. Maybe the story does not belong to you, but instead to a brother, cousin, or one (or all) of your children. However you happened to come by your college miscommunication horror story, the fact remains that most of us have one or know one.

Fast forward to today and still too often these stories of mishap can be attributed to missed or overlooked emails. To many of us who now find ourselves slaves to our work email, the idea of missing an email may seem almost impossible. But all you have to do is think back to those days spent growing, learning, and developing…oh, and sometimes going to class, and you quickly remember how easy it is to forget. Now imagine being a student in 2016 with the art of communication growing more creative with each new app. Things just might get tricky. In fact, “email is not exactly the communication platform of choice for today’s students” (Supiano 2016). The type of technology being used to reach students must be re-evaluated. Although, many of the tools used by students socially are not as conducive to the business of college or university, administrators must be aware of and sensitive to student preference.

On most college campuses each department stands alone when it comes to communicating information to students. This means that students may receive an urgent email from the registrar, an important email from their professor, and a campus-wide notice from the dean of admissions office…all within the same hour. That’s not to mention the countless emails already sitting in their inbox and the 25 more that will pop up before dinner. So now you have a college student who in the midst of pondering the meaning of life, snapchatting themselves walking across campus, texting with group members about a project, and trying to decide what to eat for lunch… must also wade through continuous emails, determine which are important and respond in some way. Inevitably, something is going to be missed.

In the article “To improve Student Success, A University Confronts the Email Deluge,” written by Beckie Supiano for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Supiano describes the issues with email communication on the campus of Michigan State University and how they began to build their dam in hopes of decreasing the flood. To start the conversation, administrators from departments all across the campus were brought together to complete a visual exercise known as process mapping. Armed with sticky notes, administrators charted all mass communication sent to students from their departments within a typical first year. What resulted was a sea of color representing all of the overlapping and bombarding information that students were receiving. The writing was literally “on the wall.” It became very clear to administrators that they had a problem. However, seeing the problem was only the first step. Creating and initiating solutions would prove to be a much longer process. At the time Supiano’s article was written, MSU was spending time evaluating the problem, gathering suggestions, and taking time to bring all stakeholders to the table.

Michigan State University is just one of many, many institutions who are facing the challenge of creating a campus environment that uniquely fosters the success of today’s student. Colleges and Universities are discovering that their virtual interaction with students is in need of as much thought and preparation as is given to the planning of their physical environments. Ineffective methods of virtual communication have the ability to create chaos for students, especially first years. So what can be done immediately to address your campus’ communication woes?

  1. Collaborate. MSU quickly realized when administrators were brought together and given the opportunity to lay out their department communication through process mapping, that there was duplication and bottle-necking of information that could potentially prove disastrous for students. Once this revelation was made departments were able to begin to share and coordinate solutions and efforts to begin the streamline process.
  2. Seek Wisdom. Gathering insight from others facing your same battle can offer fresh perspective and seasoned advantage. MSU sent some of their admins to a meeting hosted by The University Innovation Alliance. Here, novel approaches to furthering student success were shared by other university administrators actually putting their solutions in to practice.
  3. Be Flexible. This may be most important. Rarely is there only one way to skin a cat, as they say. Although Supiano’s article ends without MSU determining a clear solution at this time, it is apparent that they are well on their way. With ideas and suggestions being brought to the table MSU is considering all options. Solving this problem will likely involve a synthesizing of ideas that can only come through flexibility.

Throughout the last twelve years, Edvance360 has worked with numerous institutions as a partner in student success. The E360 platform is a solutions based tool. Our platform has been designed with the college student, professor, and administrator in mind.

If communication is a struggle E360 offers a variety of ways to schedule, automate, track, send and receive correspondence using technologies that allow for the creation of audio, visual, and written communication. This not only includes email and tracking when email was read/received/deleted, but alternative methods like FAQs, process-tracking, text messages, automated reminders, and more.

In a recent Gallup article, “The New Era of Communication Among Americans,” Frank Newport reports the dominant way of communicating for Americans under 50 is text messaging. Face it, the world has changed. Edvance360 is designed to help your college or university facilitate learning, foster productive communication, and streamline processes and procedures. For a list of tools and features used most frequently by our Higher Ed clients, contact cathy.garland@edvance360.com.

Resources:

To Improve Student Success, A University confronts the email deluge (2016) The Chronicle of Higher Education Supiano, Beckie

The New Era of Communication Among Americans (2014) Gallup Newport, Frank