Utah State University has implemented a new texting program, partnering with Signal Vine to give offices a tool to connect with students beyond traditional email communications. This tool allows the university to remind students of deadlines, check in on their statuses and have automated responses to frequent questions or concerns, all through text messages sent directly to students’ cell phones.
USU Online initiated a pilot program for the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters, involving students in the Competency Based Education (CBE) program as well as new admissions.
Signal Vine is a campaign-based texting system that is designed to send scheduled messages at prearranged times. E-Learning Enrollment Specialist Dan Allred set up a series of messages that were sent to students in two-week intervals, reminding them of important deadlines as well as checking how they were doing. Signal Vine’s tools allowed the administrator to build automatic responses to anticipated frequent responses or questions, alleviating administrators from personally having to respond to every message, but also keeping students informed and having their needs met quickly.
A real example of how the program worked for prospective students is as follows:
A prospective student was sent the message: “An application can take a couple of weeks to process. If you haven’t already started, reply with “link” for a link to the application.”
If the student replied with the word “link” they would be sent a pre-written automatic response: “https://applynow.usu.edu. Transcripts can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know if you have any questions.”
A current student might receive the following message once during the semester:
“Hey [First name]! I hope Spring Break was nice. We’re into the final stretch of the semester. Are things going alright for you? Reply yes or no.” From there they could receive one of these responses:
- Response if yes: “Great! Keep up the good work!”
- Response if no: “I’m sorry to hear that! How can I help?”
Students also have the opportunity to text the number with any question or response and the office can reply to them directly. During the pilot program, several students took advantage of the service to ask questions that helped them get needed resources or prepare for the upcoming semester.
The scheduled messages can be modified based on the needs of each office. When COVID-19 first arrived on USU campus, the system was also modified to meet student needs as the virus impacted spring 2020 classes.
As the pilot program progressed, statewide campuses also expressed interest in exploring new ways to reach out to students and learned about USU Online’s use of Signal Vine. The program has now expanded to include statewide campuses.
Signal Vine is best used to manage messaging campains, but can also be used for specific ad hoc communication. It has been implemented institution wide. Offices looking for more information and how they can use the program should contact their administrators about potential use and training.