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How UWG Tackled Mental Health Issues Facing Their Students

The need for mental health accommodations on college campuses is well documented. Research indicates that nearly half of all college students struggle with mental health at some point and the COVID-19 pandemic did not help this situation.

Last week we talked about the Persistence Check In — our methodology for identifying students who are at risk for not returning each semester. This week we looked at recent data from the Wellness Check In — a bi-annual check on how students are doing physically and mentally. This helps identify students who may struggle with what our research identifies as the key drivers of persistence related to wellness and belonging.

To identify trends we dove into data for one of our partners at the University of West Georgia. Wolfie, their AI Chatbot powered by EdSights, reached out to nearly 8,600 currently enrolled students during the holiday break in December 2021. When asked about their overall health and well-being, two thirds of responding students indicated they felt simply “OK”, or worse, “poor.”

How Did the Wolfie AI Chatbot Support Persistence?

On a weekly basis, EdSights keeps up with more than 200,000 students nationwide. Because of this, Wolfie’s Knowledge Base is prepared to dive deeper to get to the bottom of what challenges students are facing and connect them to the right resources.

For the most at-risk students, Wolfie found that more than half of respondents indicated they were suffering from challenges with their mental health specifically. Wolfie connected them to valuable resources on campus that they may not have been aware of or accessed before, including the campus counseling center and the Momentum Center, which helps students balance their physical wellness and nutritional needs.

Wolfie follows up automatically after six months to ensure the students followed through and received the support they needed. In April 2022, Wolfie reached out to those who were identified as at-risk in December. The number of students who reported struggling with mental health issues declined by 20%!

Why is Wolfie the Higher Ed Chatbot So Effective?

Many people do not seek help or are not aware of the resources available to them.

Many institutions leverage a chatbot or SMS text messaging tool to broadcast resources to their entire community. Unfortunately, this approach leads to a “noise of nudges” and important messages and reminders get lost.

Wolfie pre-qualified students by asking questions about personal health and well-being. The bot offers suggestions for support only when a student indicates they are not feeling great. This approach ensures that the students get access to the resources or people they need without feeling like they are being broadcast to.

From our own experiences, we may understand that sharing our personal feelings and mental health challenges with a stranger can be overwhelming. In many ways Wolfie is more effective at getting this information because the students know they are talking to a bot and not an actual human. This creates a “judgment free zone” and students are more likely to open up.

What’s Next?

Another potential driver of wellness and belonging is — of course — satisfaction with the institution. Next week we look at recent results from our Satisfaction Check, which measures how satisfied students are with their current institution. We’ll break responses down by different institution types to identify key trends that may impact your students.


Solving the college completion crisis

Institutions who partner with EdSights between now and August 1, 2022 have the opportunity to join the largest scale persistence study in history. The goal is to uncover new trends and insights around the factors driving completion across the nation, and provide participants with real-time insights on their specific students.

On top of providing participants with key insights for their campus and national benchmarks, students enrolled at participating institutions will benefit from our AI persistence framework that connects them to personalized resources over SMS.

With the study’s findings, we will release a new annual report to serve as the nation’s first benchmark for student persistence and retention. The report will be released next fall at our inaugural client summit.

For institutions who are in the early stages of their persistence strategic planning, or for those looking to enhance their current efforts, we hope the study will provide a data driven foundation fueled by the voices and experiences of their students.



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