Students will participate in campus emergency notification systems-- you just need to make it mandatory.
Let Me Do It!
- By Geoffrey H. Fletcher
People are always looking for
incentives to do something
that's not at the top of their
pleasure list, whether it's to join a gym
to lose weight or make a bet with a fellow
smoker on who can quit first. Yet,
incentives were not the first choice of
college students surveyed by CDW-G
in the spring of 2009 about how to get
100 percent participation in emergency
notification systems associated
with their college or university. The
number one response from students
was: "Make it mandatory."
This is but one of a number of interesting
results from the report, "Potential
Mass Notification Reach in Higher
Education" (also see this month's
Trendspotter). The student
responses were particularly fascinating.
Business has long known that one
of the key factors in ensuring success
is to listen to clients. Higher education
is beginning to do a better job with
that, as colleges and universities install
CRM systems that track students from
their first pre-admission inquiries
through their lives as alumni (which
we'll talk about in depth next month).
The next step beyond tracking is to
actually listen to the clients-- in this
case, students-- not only to find out
how satisfied they are with their experience,
but also to find out how to make
various systems more effective. And,
what more important system is there
than emergency notification, which
could make a life-and-death difference
in the event of a weather emergency or
disaster such as a campus shooting?
So when students say, "Make me do
it," we should pay attention. We should
also listen to their other suggestions
on how to guarantee 100 percent participation
in these systems. Incentives
certainly can play a role: Students said
that providing an opportunity to win an
iPod as a spur to sign up would be
effective. They also offered blatantly
obvious ideas like making sign-up a
part of orientation.
Another common-sense idea was
enlisting faculty to tell students about
the emergency notification system during
the first week of class. Providing faculty
with core information about the
system to impart to students would create
a secondary benefit of ensuring the
faculty are fully aware of the system
themselves. According to the CDW-G
survey, 13 percent of faculty reported
that they did not know if their school
had an emergency alert system in place.
This is a significant contrast to the IT
staff, only 6 percent of whom were
unaware of their school's alert system.
Students also thought their peers
would be motivated to sign up if they
knew that alert systems would inform
them when classes are cancelled due
to weather. Apparently the desire to
sleep in during a snow day is more
powerful than the threat of a disaster.
The folks who did the survey proposed
that colleges assess how parents
will get information in a crisis, and
then leverage parents to improve signup.
College students may not respond
very well to parental pressure, but they
still are subject to the one thing parents
can dish out better than anyone-- guilt.
That's one way to make 'em do it!
-- Geoff Fletcher, Editorial Director
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Geoffrey H. Fletcher is the deputy executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA).