We rely on our educational institutions more than ever to inspire young adults and help build a better future. Although many schools have adjusted to a post-COVID world with online or hybrid learning, ever-changing vaccination policies and other safety protocols, student well-being continues to decline. In fact, over the last eight years, there has been a 135% increase in depression and 110% increase in anxiety for college students.
While technology is sometimes to blame for these factors, colleges and universities can leverage engagement tools to provide personalized empathetic experiences en masse.
Here are three ways that you can use your system of engagement to increase student well-being at your college or university:
1. Proactive check-ins: There are several occasions throughout a student’s career that are more stressful than others. While some of these events are planned, such as end-of-term exams or grade distribution, others can come unexpectedly, such as the recent tragedies in Uvalde and Highland Park.
You can embrace empathy by digitally reaching out to all students or specific students with a history of being triggered by such events — and simply ask if they’re okay. To do this, your system of engagement should be integrated with your SIS or CRM system, or you can use an up-to-date import file with student contact information.
Be sure your system of engagement supports both email and SMS campaigns. You might even want to capture a channel preference in your CRM system for these types of proactive check-ins. You can route those who respond to trained counseling professionals to help the student with a one-on-one phone call or via digital channels.
Using a skills-based routing algorithm will ensure that, when students respond to these outreach campaigns, they speak with a trained professional who can adequately address their concerns. If your counseling resources are limited, you might want to stagger your outreach campaigns to maintain within the student demand. You could also consider a scheduled callback option, if all the resources are busy when the student reaches out.
Be intentional about when and to whom you direct these outreach campaigns. While students will appreciate being reminded of the resources your learning institution provides for maintaining healthy levels of stress, they don’t want to be spammed.
2. Career services ambassadors: College seniors and young alumni might also experience elevated anxiety and stress as they enter the workforce today, especially during volatile and uncertain times. Signs from major companies like Tesla and Coinbase show the “Great Resignation” might be coming to an end. That means job seekers might once again be at a loss when it comes to finding work.
Career services teams at colleges and universities offer assistance to students entering the workforce. There’s no better way to leverage your network of alumni professionals than to connect them with student job seekers.
Modern engagement platforms enable sophisticated routing to match a job seeker with a professional who has the applicable skills and experience to coach, mentor and refer the student for an open position. If your institution keeps a database of alumni professionals that have volunteered to help students who reach out to them, put them in a queue with their appropriate skills.
The next time a student fills out a form requesting to connect with someone in their field of study, your engagement system can notify an alumnus with the right skillset to interact.
The best part is that, if the alumnus is using your engagement system, versus direct email or phone calls, your career services team can track all the interactions. Additionally, this gives an additional layer of privacy to those alumni volunteers who don’t want their personal phone or email to be shared.
3. Academic and advising appointments: A study has shown that the shift from in-person learning to online learning is a major factor in student anxiety. Students who are used to in-person coursework might continue to face challenges adapting to online classes. Seeking out additional guidance from their advisor or faculty should not be an onerous task.
Without a reliable engagement system, it can be extremely frustrating to a student who cannot get in touch with their academic resources, especially with increased student-to-faculty ratios. Virtual office hours are the new norm. And they not only provide equal opportunity access to faculty resources, but they build in efficiencies that allow office hours to be asynchronous and location-agnostic.
By using engagement technology for omnichannel virtual queues, students can proactively reach out to their advisors, professors, teaching assistants or any other academic resource using the channel of their choice. If that resource is unavailable, a callback option can be implemented to set a time that mutually works for both the student and faculty member.
Proactive digital reminders of upcoming advising/mentoring appointments can also be implemented to minimize last-minute cancellations or no-shows.
Making the Grade with Your System of Engagement
Your students’ well-being is a critical component to their overall college experience. Stress and anxiety can detrimentally affect academic performance and even retention rate.
By strategically using technology, you have a robust and consistent way to keep your students happy and engaged. Appropriately leveraging your system of engagement introduces an opportunity to enhance student experiences — and hopefully keep their stress levels at a minimum.