3 “better” ways to get a hold of a student…

June 29, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As many of you know…attempting to establish or re-establish communication with a student is similar to hunting down a Sasquatch.  With the advent of Pocket, Cricket and other similar pay-as-you-go phone plans, a student's phone number can change three or four times within a semester!  

This places the academic advisor in a bit of a predicament.  An advisor is expected to maintain lines of communications regardless of a student's actions; with everything going on in a student's life, a student isn't always thinking about updating their resources with their new contact information.  As a result, advisors are left with nothing more than a dried up trail of old communication avenues that may or may not work when you need them.  

Through experience, I've reached a conclusion…it is time for advisors to get even more aggressive in their tactics. Here are three "better" ways to contact a student, aside from the traditional phone call and disconnection recording:

1) Collect Personal Email Addresses. Traditional students reaching the post-secondary level are all too exposed to solicitation.  Since the birth of the non-static web, our students have been asked to give their email address up on a contact form only to find out their inbox is filled with SPAM two seconds after hitting "enter" or submitting the paper form.  As a result, this new generation of students have adapted and now own 2 or more email addresses – specifically for this reason. Each email has it's purpose for the student.  It would benefit us to collect these addresses in an attempt to obtain their "true" personal email. Here are a few tips:
   – On any form that collects student information (whether via web or hard copy), add at least two slots for email addresses and label them "primary" and "secondary/alternate"…much like our phone number section.  
   – Add a disclaimer that you will not use their contact information for solicitations or allow access to any third party affiliates, even other departments in the college.  
   – Use their personal email in addition to their student/college email address to ensure your communication is delivered. 

2) Facebook/Myspace REQUIRED. Over 95% of traditional student entering or currently in college have either a Facebook or Myspace account, depending on the region you live in.  It takes time and effort to set these accounts up and establish their social community, especially if they have "custom" page names as part of their URL.  Take advantage of this and set up a Facebook or Myspace account for your specific department.  You will get better return rates on communication via social sites than a typical phone number.   Here are some tips when using these social media sites:
   – On any form that collects student information (whether via web or hard copy), add a section that allows them to write in their social media links. Not only will this save time, but it's an official way of a student giving you permission to contact them in this manner. A disclaimer for this would be a good idea as well. 
   – If you are going to use this method as a contact source, you must remember that it comes with rules and a dedication to building that personal rapport.  In doing so, you will be amazed at how much access to a student you can have and the perks of seeing "status updates" work well when you are having trouble finding out what a student may need to improve their grades, etc. 
   – If you have the ability to do so, I'd recommend making their involvement on your Facebook or Myspace account mandatory for your program/department/club, etc. The key is to keep them engaged or request "friend status" with your account. 

3) U shld IM them. Virtually every student has a smart phone. With that, comes mobile accessibility to IM services and providers such as Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, Digsby, etc.  Find out (via surveys, etc.) which services are most popular in your student base and set up professional accounts with those services.  Not only will you be making your services more convenient for them, but you will also be able to see when they are online or reachable.  All IM transcriptions can be logged and tracked, downloaded and emailed. 

Trust me, these methods work.  It is all a matter of preparation before the execution.  Check to see what your college's policies are regarding social media and communication with students prior to establishing these methods.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the response you get.  

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