Peak Education Discovered that Text Messaging Students Positively Impacts Their GPA

How a non-profit used Modern Campus Signal Vine to launch a pilot texting program

About Peak Education

Peak Education partners with school districts in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and beyond to increase underserved student access to college counseling and post-secondary options. Ninety percent of Peak Education scholars are students of color and will be the first in their family to attend college. Peak Education provides resources to encourage more students to apply to well matched post-secondary schools; teaches students how to navigate admissions and financial aid application processes; and helps them successfully transition to and through college.

 

Lauren Taylor, director of programs and systems

 

The Challenge

Peak Education first used Signal Vine in 2020 to support students with reminders and updates through the confusion of COVID-19. 

There were certainly good results from the transactional messaging we sent—directing students what to do, where to go, reminders, etc. However, it seemed like we were missing a major component of how students use texts to pump each other up to be a line of support to one another,.

Lauren Taylor

Taylor is a first-generation college student and scholar-practitioner herself. With a focus on social-emotional skills, career readiness, and tools for success in higher education, she was particularly interested in tapping into the power of positive messaging with Peak Education students. Her vision was to send messages of encouragement and then assess the impact on students’ academic performance as measured by their GPAs.

 

The Implementation

In Spring 2021, Taylor identified 33 students who were high risk (who had negatively impacted GPAs during the pandemic) to receive positive messaging, to see if it made a difference in their performance and engagement with resources for support. She sent the same messages to students in a control group of 49 high-performing students.

"We were trying to see whether moving away from action-oriented messages that are transactional, and engaging students by offering support and encouragement, would make a difference," Taylor said. "We knew the answer to this question could fundamentally change our communication strategy."

Each week, Taylor texted a message, a quote, and a video and prompted students to respond with their thoughts. The students responded—a lot. 

I was so surprised by how engaged students were. They shared feedback that expressed that the outreach was meaningful to them. I knew some students would be into it, but I had no idea how many students would engage!

Lauren Taylor

The Result

The results were statistically significant. In both the control and high risk groups, students who had received positive messages and responded to them seven or more times had notable improvements in GPA.

Read the full research report

Taylor says that this project “was just a gut instinct” that she had along the way because if these types of positive messages felt good to her, why wouldn’t they feel good to a student?

“The trickiest part was figuring out what to send,” she admits. “I am a white, 30-something who is texting teens who are primarily not white. My team and I had a lot of conversations to explore what would resonate. For instance, is a Brené Brown quote going to go over well?” Taylor found that some of the “best practices” that make sense for adults don’t resonate with teens. However, with some modification, messages could encourage student interest and engagement.

Going forward, Taylor and her team plan to continue the positive-messaging strategy. 

The bottom line is that the more we encourage students, and the more they respond, the more likely we are to impact their academic performance positively. We are so proud of our students, and they need to hear that—especially in these crazy times!

Lauren Taylor
 
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About Modern Campus

Modern Campus is obsessed with empowering its 1,200+ higher education customers to thrive when radical transformation is required to respond to lower student enrollments and revenue, rising costs, crushing student debt and even school closures.

Powered by Omni CMS, DIGARC, Presence, Signal Vine and Destiny One, the Modern Campus modern learner engagement platform enables innovative institutions to create a “learner to earner” lifecycle that engages modern learners for life.

 

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