Getting the Word Out

“Getting the word out” to students has become more challenging as social media trends change rapidly and new platforms emerge. Whether a faculty member wants to notify students of a class cancellation, the athletics department announces free t-shirts at the next home game, or we are asking them to complete their Teaching Surveys, deciding which platform to use is daunting. Email is the official communication of the university but according to a recent article in the New York Times, “Young people much prefer online chats and text messages. The future of messaging is more real time, more conversational, and more casual.”

The Office of Measurement and Evaluation of Teaching conducts approximately five thousand surveys each fall and spring term. Students receive emails with links to surveys for classes they are enrolled in. Why should students care about responding to teaching surveys? Instructors and administrators value their responses. They eagerly await their results at the end of each term. Instructors may be gathering feedback about changes they made to their course while others may be looking for new ideas. Administrators use the data to review course offerings and make decisions about rehires or promotions.

How do we communicate to students their vital role in this process? The current survey administration system sends links and reminders via email. Important information about surveys is always available on our website. In addition, OMET places ads in the Pitt News, hangs a banner at the Student Union, posts announcements on My Pitt, CourseWeb, and digital signage boards. Instructors are encouraged to explain the process in class, post announcements on Blackboard, and send their own messages. Research shows that the best way to increase the number of student’s responses is for instructors to talk to their students personally.

Today’s college students receive and share information in vastly different ways than previous generations. “Technology offers college students an array of options to socialize, network, stay informed and connected. College students are now expecting communication with their academic and extra-curricular programs to mimic the communication in the rest of the lives. They want to be connected constantly and informed instantaneously”. Looking for ways to share information with these “Digital Natives” is an important task for OMET.

Our efforts will include continuing to look at different ways to get the word out to students and reexamining the content of the emails that are sent. An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education quotes a student at Frostburg State University who points out that emails are way too long-winded. “Our generation is used to having everything at the drop of the hat. We want it quick and easy and to the point.” Streamlining subject lines and message bodies may go a long way toward keeping in line with what students are looking for. Student feedback is important to the University community. We will team up with the Pitt News and our message will appear in print, online, and as Tweets. OMET will continue to explore other ways to connect with students and get the word out about how valuable their opinions and comments are.

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