By Mary Kate McGrath - October 28, 2019
Generation Z students, defined as any individual enrolled in college or university born after 1997, are the most technology-savvy generation to date, according to the Pew Research Center. Technology defines how a generation communicates - for example, baby boomers grew up alongside television, which dramatically changed lifestyles, while Gen X grew up during the computer revolution, and millennials came of age during the rise of the internet. For Gen Z, mobile devices with WiFi, social media, and streaming or on-demand entertainment have always been present. In order to reach a higher-ed community full of "digital natives", a university texting platform is essential.
Texting is one of the most effective mediums to reach a campus community predominantly made up of Gen Z students. When exploring potential vendors for a university texting platform, campus safety managers should turn to key features other college or university teams have asked for. Many college and university leaders recognize mass notification as a necessity for emergency communications, but may not be utilizing the system’s full range of capability. Looking to the questions other campuses have asked when evaluating their next university texting platform can reveal key features and new capability safety managers may have not yet considered.
Digital communication, especially via mobile phone or device, is the most reliable mode of communication to reach Gen Z students. Approximately 95% of Gen Z students have a smartphone, and almost half these students use their phone for 5+ hours per day. Text-based communications can be easily incorporated into a campus emergency communication plan, and the service can benefit all members of the campus community. A university texting system can be used to reach students, faculty, and staff via SMS text, voice-call, or e-mail, and should allow for community members to contact campus safety or local law enforcement directly.
Digital communication via text, email, voice-call, or digital signage, have slowly phased out written communications. A university texting platform is a group communication tool designed to reach all students, faculty, staff, or visitors to communicate schedule changes or updates to university operations, resources on campus, and emergency situations. The platform primarily issues notifications to a college or university student, faculty, or staff member's cellphones, smartphones, or other digital devices. In a technology-focused environment, text-messaging students is considered best practice for campus safety managers.
Every college and university can leverage a texting platform to communicate scheduling, employment opportunities, raise awareness about campus health resources, academic or career advising center offerings, and, perhaps most critically, provide updates during an emergency. A university texting platform can be integrated into a mass-notification platform, but the two may differ in key ways. First, while mass notification might reach students via text, e-mail, or phone-call, the primary purpose of the system is to raise situational awareness. During an emergency, students may want to reach campus safety teams directly, especially when traveling between facilities alone. The ability to communicate with school officials or campus safety via text is a function going beyond mass notification which can greatly improve how texting is used on campus.
Before exploring vendors for a university texting platform, it’s important that campus safety officials collaborate with institution leaders to understand goals for the technology. What type of information needs to be communicated to reach these goals? Is the system implemented only during an emergency situation, such as an extreme-weather emergency or active assailant on campus, or will the system be used in daily operations?
Then, assemble a team responsible for issuing texts to students, and consider involving these individuals in evaluating vendors. By doing so, the college or university can seek a system with the specific functionality needed to reach students, faculty, and staff. The team can also be responsible for putting together a realistic budget for the project - including the software and training, as well as putting together a timeline for implementing the system on campus.
Generation Z students prefer app-based communication since it allows for on-the-go mobile communication and the ability to manage multiple conversations at once. Gen Z students are also three times as likely to open a push notification, another feature to consider when trying to find a reliable way to reach students via text. A campus safety app can boost campus emergency communications with discreet anonymous tip-texting.
With Rave Guardian, texts and tips can be routed based on categories administrators define, allowing administrators to respond instantly to geo-tagged texts in real-time with two-way messaging. The feature adds an extra layer of security, ensuring the text message is seen and responded to by the relevant campus team. Asking whether or not a university texting platform is compatible with a campus safety app can help prioritize student, faculty, and staff safety, as the tool enables community members to reach with safety officials immediately during an emergency.
For many colleges and universities, a university texting system will serve a variety of critical functions on campus. Many college or universities will want to ensure their next texting platform can send an unlimited number of messages to an unlimited recipients in a fast, reliable manner. Through ongoing proactive freshness checks, the system should guarantee the right message is sent to the right user, every time. Make sure any mass notification system, campus safety app, or other tool with the functionality to text students, faculty, and staff has a proven record of reliability. Chose a vendor with extensive experience managing high-volume texting, proven record of successful message delivery at the moment it most counts.
Find more helpful questions to ask your university texting system with help from our EBook.
Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.
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