Internal University Communications: Expectations and Responsibility 🎓 ✅ 📱

Stop blaming students about your bad tactics and start teaching them how to manage their communications

If students aren’t reading your emails, finding out about events (or other important things) via social media, or engaging with buried content in an unusually-unfriendly-to-humans ‘learning’ system, then that’s a problem…and it’s not necessarily a problem for students to solve.

Let me explain…I am asked with almost 100% certainty after I give a talk at a conference, put on a workshop, or in almost any professional context where I’m speaking about communications within higher education, about how [insert a department here] can get students to actually read their emails, check social media, or dig through a mountain of forum posts within a VLE/LMS.

There a loads of reasons why emails go out to students. Social media provide convenient avenues to share events, policies, tips, etc. Learning systems are like Swiss Army knives when it comes to engagement potential..yes, they can do a lot, but do you really need an awl? Each person/department sending out countless messages via digital channels thinks that their content is important. And, from a micro perspective, they are correct.

However, take a look at the big picture and students are downstream from a tidal wave of communications that they are often unprepared to manage.

In a recent post on the Student Affairs Professionals Facebook group, Corey Miller, an SA pro at the University of Alaska Anchorage, described this communications tension perfectly:

“It seems at some point the student really needs to be taking ownership of their own campus experience OR that the university needs to streamline what platform its willing to put all of its time and energy into.”

Internal university communications is about expectations and responsibility…a bit of ‘both/and.’

Universities have to do a better job of coordinating their internal messaging to current students. Maybe a reduction in quantity of messages would result in a bit more quality of experience? And, universities must also teach students how to manage their communications in a digital sphere that is filled to the brim with messages of varying importance.

Every single job that I’ve held within a university setting (either as a student or as a full-time employee) has involved communications/messaging. And, at each of these institutions, people have blamed students for not ‘being good at email (or any other communications channel) instead of thinking about how internal strategic communications require thoughtfulness and/or how a communications literacy program would help improve both sides of the issue.

If you expect students to ‘get’ all of your messages, then it’s crucial that you develop a communications literacy/capability program (sometimes these types of programs are built into digital literacy/capability structures) that spans the entire student journey.

Teaching students how digital engagement works at your university offers up two distinct benefits: students enhance their digital literacy and your messages have a better chance of being read. It’s win-win.

Originally posted at Inside Higher Ed.