Leveraging Technology to Connect Students to Support

Every year around this time our coaching centers are abuzz with what we call “NSA.” No, we’re not talking about matters of national security, we’re talking about “new student adoption” – the process of getting incoming students engaged with support resources.

The InsideTrack coaches leading this process are supported by our uCoach Engagement Platform – a multichannel communication and student engagement platform that transforms initial interactions between coaches and students.

Through the uCoach platform, incoming students receive an introductory email and text message directing them to an intake process they can easily complete from a computer or mobile device.

Students take a short quiz about their goals, needs and preferences that includes a brief introduction to coaching and provides options to schedule a call with their coach and download the uCoach app.

Meeting Students Where They Are

Personalized, multichannel communication is becoming the norm. Students of all ages and demographics increasingly receive information via mobile device.

In fact, 90% of all adults have a mobile phone and most are smartphone users who check their device an average of 150 times a day.

Meeting students where they are minimizes unnecessary frustration and ensures messages and support are received in a timely manner. The uCoach platform allows students to connect immediately with their coach and quickly pull up important information and documents. Students can easily schedule meetings and interact by phone, web meeting, email, text, mobile app and social media.

Below is an example of the customized modules and interactive content students can access through the app any time.

Getting Off On The Right Foot

The platform uses data and technology to optimize human interaction. Insights gathered from the intake process allow the coach and institution to tailor the student experience.

When students meet with their coach for the first time, they already know a little bit about each other so they’re able to spend less time going over transactional items and basic information. One coach noticed a difference in her ability to go deeper with students in an initial coaching meeting, commenting, “my students seem much more comfortable with me asking them questions that might otherwise seem personal or out of context. Because of the uCoach platform, they already know what to expect and we can jump right to the meat of a conversation.”

Student Support For The Real World

Multichannel communication isn’t just about catering to student preferences – it’s an essential part of accessible and inclusive student support. One coach noted that a student with a hearing impairment who would be difficult to otherwise engage with loves the ability to exchange texts and communicate through the app. To communicate over the phone, the student relies on an additional service that gets in the way of spontaneous interactions and detracts from a sense of privacy.

The ability to access support discretely also benefits students. For example, traditional residential students are less likely to discuss mental health issues or homesickness over the phone when a roommate or friends can overhear. Students in abusive relationships, with young children down for a nap, or those working full-time may also need to communicate through other means.

Anything that helps my students feel comfortable telling me what’s really going on is a good thing,” said one coach. “I feel empowered as a coach knowing that I can be there for all my students – no matter what – in a way that fits their life.”

What the Data Says

Incorporating additional communication channels measurably increases student engagement. In an analysis of 6,683 students comparing coaching that incorporates SMS to coaching that relied exclusively on phone and email we saw a significant increase in coaching frequency (see figure at right). Students were 27% more likely to engage in four or more coaching meetings (a metric we’ve found correlates to student success) and participated in an average of 1.5 more coaching meetings in a given term.

We also notice a difference in the ability to engage students who tend to be difficult to reach. The figure below shows that when we added text messaging for students who were essentially MIA (i.e., unresponsive to outreach from coaches) during the first 4 weeks of their first term (a leading indicator of student success), the likelihood of engagement increased 3.6 fold. Often, simply having one meeting prior to the end of a term can help students avoid serious financial or academic consequences.

Coaches who use a multichannel approach engage students more deeply in coaching 

Coaching engagement for all students who received coaching at a single institution, N = 6,683

A multichannel approach is especially effective for engaging the most difficult to reach students 

Coaches who use SMS are more likely to eventually establish contact with MIA students before the end of term (1,704 out of 6,683 unreachable during weeks 0-3)

“People notice technology for two reasons: either it’s blowing your mind or it’s frustrating you out of your mind,” explained Brian Co, InsideTrack’s VP of Product and Platform Development. “Our goal is to put the best resources at the fingertips of every student so they can focus on achieving their goals unencumbered.”

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