At the beginning of each term, students try to find seats in my already-full courses, and the stream of emails begins. This year those requests are a little bit different, indicating a new trend in professor-student communication, and the ratcheting up of Gen Y digital expectations in higher ed.
My students are asking for push notifications of open seats.
No can do.
The registration system at my university doesn’t offer this service for students. There’s no opt-in for them to receive SMS, emails or ping alerts about vacant course spots in real time. In other words, course selection isn’t your parents’ OpenTable or eBay auction.
But should it be?
Moreover, as a prof, I don’t have access to the registration numbers in real time. There’s no way for me to monitor the situation and give my students a push-on-request. The administrative assistant could monitor and manage a wait-list, but that’s not autopilot, that’s time consuming human effort. And in any case, that’s not what students are asking about. They want that Apple Concierge style personalized auto ping messaging.
The current infeasibility of this request at my school is beside the point. The more interesting aspect concerns students’ shifting expectations about connectivity, news alerts, mobile messaging, and system monitoring.
The next wave of digital and mobile student services will be all about the ping.
Of course there are already SMS services enabling profs to push notify their students. For example, Todd McCann, also known as “Professor Textblaster” at Bay College in Michigan received national news media attention for his innovative digital initiatives to keep students on track using micromessaging. Likewise, a new start-up Remind101 is currently in private beta at an East Coast university, designed (by a GenY entrepreneur) exclusively for educators to send students sms reminders—certainly worth a look.
There are many ways that professors could use push notifications beyond letting students know about empty seats. In an effort to raise student outcomes, we can text reminders about tests and deadlines, or send weekly sample quiz questions. In class, we can use SMS for polling, or to test comprehension, or to distribute links to web resources.
Interested in more details? For some international perspectives, check out this study (link opens pdf) “M-learning: texting (SMS) as a teaching & learning tool in higher arts education” by the University of Winchester in the UK. Also see this study (link opens slideshare) from researchers at The University of Minho in Portugal, filled with statistics and ideas for using SMS to improve students’ connectedness, comprehension, and test results.
Accustomed to auto-notifications from Facebook, for movie openings, pop-up tip alerts for local deals, and preferring texting to voice communication anyway—Gen Y students are asking for a digital push to help them stay organized and get ahead. Is higher ed ready?