Guest Contributor: Sandy Keeter, Seminole State College of Florida.

You know that text messaging can be a distraction to students while they’re attending class. But can it can also be used as an effective means for you, as an instructor, to facilitate connections with them? Today, Sandy Keeter of Seminole State College describes how she is using a text-messaging service with the goal of increasing student retention and engagement with her course. 

It all started two years ago, when our E-learning Department asked if anyone wanted to use texting in their classes. My first reaction was: absolutely not! I want students to go into our LMS and be responsible for reviewing the calendar and due dates. No way was I going to spoon feed them the information they should be gathering on their own! However, as the year went on — and my enrollment numbers kept getting higher and my retention numbers became lower — I figured I needed to do something else to “help” my students and my numbers. If your college is anything like ours, new items and requests take time. If it costs money, then you have to wait to get it approved, and then the money has to be distributed, and then you wait some more… and you get the point!

It so happened that while attending a Sloane Consortium Mobile Learning Seminar, one of my assignments was to create a Mobile Learning Plan. My research and plan centered around texting services geared to the classroom (or online learning). This is when I came upon Remind101, which I am currently testing in my CGS2100 Office Applications class. I have around 300 students loaded into my LMS and have offered this texting service to all of the students so they can get weekly reminders sent to their phones via text message. It’s all done through the Remind101 website. They set you up with an account and a phone number that students will text to subscribe to receive the reminders. It’s currently free, it’s easy, and it ensures that students don’t have access to my cell phone number. I typed up all of my semester reminders, entered dates and times for when they should be sent and voilà… that’s it! If I need to make a change, I can always go in and add or edit to those that have not gone out yet.

So far, so good. We’re only a few weeks into our semester, but about half of the students seem to be enrolled in the service and assignments seem to be rolling in more quickly and timely than I remember in past semesters! My hope is that as the semester progresses, and students check into the online class less and less frequently (because their lives get in the way…), that the texting will kick them in the pants, wake them up, and remind them that this class is still going! I can’t wait to see how my retention numbers improve by using this service.

Sandy Keeter is a Professor in the IT Department at Seminole State College in Florida, where she teaches a variety of Office Applications classes. She is the SAM administrator on campus and is a Cengage Learning Technology Power User.

Though Sandy Keeter is testing one particular service for use with her students, you may identify other means of facilitating this process. For example, perhaps your institution has adopted a service like ConnectYard, which provides a means of electronically disseminating messages to students via social and mobile media. (The ConnectYard SLS technology is embedded within Cengage Learning’s MindTap family of products, via a MindApp.) Likewise, you may be familiar with other services or apps that help students manage their time or assignments, or you may be considering ways to use text messages as part of an assignment itself.

Have you created a mobile learning plan incorporating any of these ideas? If so, in what ways did it help you reach the goals you’ve set for your class and increase student engagement? Join the conversation below.