How Athens State University is connecting with students at scale
 

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With a global pandemic in full force, Athens State University leveraged their chatbot, Hebrew the Bear, to effectively communicate with students, build a sense of belonging and collect specific, actionable data.

The result?

A 98% opt-in rate, a more engaged virtual community, valuable insights that resulted in more human follow-up and 5000 student text messages received in just the first month.

MEET ATHENS STATE UNIVERSITY

Athens, Alabama is home to Athens State University, a premier destination for transfer students seeking a quality education and cutting-edge delivery. With 3,000+ students taking classes there each semester, many have chosen Athens State due to its neighborly environment where over 50 different degree programs are taught by understanding and quality staff. Ensuring that students felt supported and connected to their school, academic programs, graduation plans and peers was at the focal point of Athens State University’s student-centered philosophy.

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Type of Institution

Public Upper Level University

Student Population

3063 Undergraduates

Location

Athens, AL

AN OUTDATED PROBLEM

Maintaining communication with a nearly 100% remote student body was no easy feat and the outdated call and email check-in methods weren’t entirely yielding the robust results Athens State was expecting. Oftentimes, students wouldn’t monitor their emails or answer their phones, and when they did, they wouldn’t provide staff with the honest feedback they were craving.

In the midst of a global pandemic, administration thought now was as good of a time as ever to acquire the crucial help connecting with students during these uncertain times. That’s where EdSights stepped in.

Sarah McAbee, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Support Services, additionally wanted to achieve the following goals:

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Effectively communicate with students by informing them of campus operations and nudging them to take certain important actions

Build and preserve a sense of belonging within a virtual community during a time in which everyone is physically separated

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Collect actionable specific data that helps with student retention

Show students where and how they could get assistance and resources when they need it most

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HOW EDSIGHTS HELPED

It was EdSight’s ability to communicate with students in a personalized way and assume the persona of Athens State’s beloved mascot, Hebrew the Bear, that really resonated with Sarah. Her students wouldn’t be receiving a bland, generic-sounding group message that felt impersonal or insensitive. Instead, they would have the opportunity to respond to fun and relevant texts that ultimately were aimed at revealing student inequalities to university staff, such as having adequate resources to complete their coursework, housing or food insecurities, or emotional distress brought on by loss of employment.

STUDENTS LIKE EVERYTHING ON THEIR PHONES. SO HAVING THIS COME ACROSS AS A TEXT MESSAGE THAT THEY CAN RESPOND TO AS THEY NEED TO IS A REALLY EASY WAY TO GET STUDENTS INVOLVED AND LET SCHOOLS KNOW WHAT THEY NEED SO STAFF CAN BE RESPONSIVE TO THEM

Sarah McAbee

Vice President for Enrollment and Student Support Services

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3303

STUDENTS OPTED IN

5010+

RECEIVED STUDENT TEXTS

TARGETED CONVERSATIONS

20

98% of students opted into receiving communications from Hebrew.

In April, Athens State students were first introduced to Hebrew the Bear and he immediately got to work.

INTRODUCING HEBREW THE BEAR

Hebrew received 5010+ text messages from students in the first month

Hebrew checked in with students and had targeted conversations with them in 20 separate instances

3033 students are currently opted in and are receiving texts from Hebrew

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In just 4 months of EdSights launching and Hebrew’s interventions, check-ins and nudges produced dramatic results.

RESULTS THAT SPEAK VOLUMES

Hebrew reminded 2707 students to vote for their 2020-21 SGA Secretary and sent them information on candidates and on how to vote

Hebrew nudged 2727 students to register for fall classes and sent them detailed instructions on how to do so

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The COVID-19 workflow uncovered 39 students who were struggling due to employment concerns and was able to link them directly to student employment services

Hebrew connected 3035 students to the free mental health community through TalkCampus

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The Summer Persistence Nudge
identified
71 students and their
reasons for possibly not returning in Fall 2020. Staff members utilized this specific, actionable data to conduct targeted reach out and prioritize students who needed the most immediate support

It was discovered that students wanted a better WiFi connection that could extend to the parking lot so they could take their classes there. The administration was able to prioritize and implement this need immediately

Staff was alerted of “trigger words” being used in student’s responses so they could more quickly react and deploy helpful information with real person

follow-ups