What “The Social Network” Taught Us About Student Engagement

If you’ve taken a walk around a college campus lately, you’d notice a common denominator… mobile devices have the attention of your student population. Whether they are head-down texting, scrolling through various apps, or plugged into streaming media – it is evident that the central communication hub of today’s college student is their mobile phone. Head over to a campus quad and you’ll realize that the common sound you hear is no longer the “chime” of a booting computer – but the “ding” of an incoming push notification. And no matter what a student is doing, that “ding” always elicits an immediate response – making the push notification the undisputed king of digital engagement.

We can all learn from “The Social Network”

 Yes, that’s the one – the 2010 movie depicting the early days of Facebook. In one of the opening scenes (taking place in the Fall of 2003), Mark Zuckerburg and his roommates crash the Harvard network because access to their website generated overwhelming traffic.  This traffic was generated from emailing the FaceMash URL to a few other students. Those students forwarded the same email to more students and before they knew it – the compounding effect of forwarding an email around campus had more students accessing the URL then the network had capacity for. This would never happen today – why? The entire sequence is predicated on a campus full of students being so engaged with their university email that a single message could spread like wildfire. Since incoming message alerts (ex. push notifications) didn’t exist outside of email applications – a campus being fully engaged with a message required students sitting around their dorm (or a computer lab) , permanently glued to their university email. In the age of mobile devices and an endless supply of apps – today, there would be 1,000 other things for students to be focused on. Safe to say, university email wouldn’t be one of them. However, administrators today assume otherwise. They still believe the most effective and efficient way to get a message in front of their students is via email.

Important emails from University Administrators and Advisers are falling on deaf ears

In a 2016 survey at Bowling Green University – “39% of students surveyed, said they don’t always read emails from academic advisers, and 54% of students said the same about emails from the university or from academic departments.” These are emails related to a student’s academic standing, class enrollment status, financial aid, campus resources, and much more. All falling on deaf ears to an alarming 54% of students. 

PeopleSoft Campus Solutions Lacks a Mobile-Responsive User Interface

In a world run primarily using mobile-optimized workflows (ex. apps, mobile versions of websites), a student’s expectation for how an online technology should look is inherently  predisposed. Gone are the days of traditional computers being a primary communication device – so if a student does open their email and follows a link into PeopleSoft Campus Solutions, the reality of what they will find does not live up to their expectations. Given Campus Solution’s lack of a mobile responsive UI, the likelihood that a student will abandon their workflow increases dramatically. So if a campus administrator’s goal for communicating with a student is to have them complete a certain workflow – then an email directing to a page that is not optimized for mobile has an extremely low probability of serving its core purpose. If engagement is the goal, then the strategy needs to change.

What can Campus Administrators do? 

Administrators in Academic Registrar and Chancellor offices, along with various academic departments all have graduation rates as their beacon of success. As these same administrators would agree – a student’s success hinges on their engagement with campus communications. Not just understanding what academic resources are at their disposal, but being fully engaged with their financial aid information so they can be assured that they have the means to continue with their education. Ineffective communications to students directly obstruct these goals. Given an effective communication strategy has been identified (ex. push notifications, mobile-optimized UI, apps) – if a campus is truely looking to positively impact their graduation rates then they must adopt the communication methods preferred by their student body.

PeopleMobile/PeopleUX and Messaging Center by GreyHeller 

Understanding that communications and workflows need to be optimized for today’s students – PeopleUX and Messaging Center deliver an optimal communication channel between campus administrators and students. Messaging Center allows university officials to send out important notifications like academic calendar reminders, hold notifications, task progress, and milestones in the form of push notifications sent directly to a student’s smartphone. This strategy has proven successful for helping at-risk students be better engaged with their advisors – who can effectively provide grade warnings, drop counts, low attendance warnings etc. Given the push notification is the undisputed king of digital engagement – utilizing this method is far and away the most effective way of performing crucial outreach to those who need it the most.                                                          . .                                                          Once your message has been received by students, PeopleMobile/PeopleUX takes over by plugging into your existing Campus Solutions applications, rendering the HTML and deploying a mobile-responsive UI that is intuitive and customized to the workflow you are trying to get your student engaged with. An optimized workflow has dramatic effects on completion rates as user abandonment due to confusion or feeling the workflow will take up too much time is greatly reduced. 


 Lastly, engaged users who are confidently performing workflows are not making calls to support looking for assistance. This decrease in calls or in-person appointments allows departments to limit extra staff or allow their existing staff to be working on more strategic initiatives. Both have significant effects on the bottom line and overall working culture within your department.

See what combining PeopleUX and Messaging Center can do to revolutionize how you communicate with your students! If you want to learn more today, we encourage you to Request a Demonstration and a solutions representative will be in touch.
February 8, 2018
5 mins read
Scott Lavery By Scott Lavery