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HBCU Bethune-Cookman Turns to Upswing for Student Engagement

A small Florida Historically Black University has gone public with its longtime use of a program intended to help the school stay connected with its students. Bethune-Cookman University said it has been using student engagement software from Upswing for virtual tutoring and virtual assistance. The university has about 2,500 students.

Bethune-Cookman initially adopted Upswing to deliver 24/7 online tutoring and writing help. Now it's also being used for financial aid assistance and student retention efforts, according to Arletha McSwain, the institution's senior educational technologist. Usage includes Ana, the program's virtual assistant, for text "nudges."

Recently, the university also began piloting a new mental health platform under development by Upswing.

"Giving our students action items they can respond to is so important during COVID, and it's this aspect of Upswing we're so excited about moving forward," said McSwain, in a press release. "We are finding that our students are more likely to respond to a text message as opposed to an e-mail."

She added that getting students to respond is important "because they're not on campus, and Ana helps students do what they used to do face-to-face on campus."

The institution said that many instructors are giving students bonus points for logging into Upswing. Administrators are using Ana as part of their dropout prevention system. Bethune-Cookman also used Ana to encourage students to register to vote and to join a march to the polls on Election Day.

As McSwain explained, "Like our sister HBCUs, our mission is to put the students first. We know our students, and our students know us. We looked to Upswing to help us scale our student services to provide our resilient students with even greater support."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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