Communicating with Your Students During the Coronavirus

by Rachel Bishop | March 11, 2020
Communicating with Your Students During the Coronavirus

There is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the Coronavirus. We know your students and staff have questions and you want to be proactive. To help, we put together a guide of preventative measures to take as well response management tips when communicating with your students during the Coronavirus. Download the full guide with 10 message examples here.

Communicating During the Coronavirus: Preventative Measures

1. Remind students of healthy practices.

Send reminders to students about remaining vigilant about their health. Remind them to take at least 20 seconds to wash their hands with warm, soapy water and to try not to touch their faces.

2. Bridge the gap for students who have health concerns.

Invite students to make appointments at your institution's health center directly through text. If your health center has its own number, be sure that students have that number.

3. Clear the air and dispel rumors.

With the widespread media coverage about the Coronavirus, rumors can run rampant on campus. Texting can be a great way to dispel rumors and make sure students have the most up-to-date information available.

4. Create alternative options for in-person meetings.

Crowds invite illnesses to spread quickly. Encourage students and staff to have their appointments via phone or text during illness outbreaks.

5. Urge students to take special care while traveling.

The Coronavirus is of widespread public concern. Encourage students to follow up with a healthcare professional immediately after traveling if they begin feeling sick.

Communicating During the Coronavirus: Response Management

1. Incorporate escalation management and next steps.

Worst case scenario, there will be instances when institutions need to inform students on next steps if they fear they have the virus. Ensure students know exactly what to do and who to contact.

2. Integrate online learning options.

If the virus is widespread across campus, provide students with an alternative learning option, such as online learning, to help contain the illness and keep it from spreading further.

3. Disseminate timely campus updates.

Ensure that students stay up-to-date on the latest campus news. Letting them know exactly what is happening can help calm fears, eliminate rumors, and help students make informed decisions.

4. Note staff procedures.

If staff need to take different measures during an illness outbreak, noting these measures via text message is a safe and convenient way to ensure all staff has the right information.

5. Circulate staff updates.

During a widespread illness, it's important to keep staff up-to-date so all departments are on the same page. This will help the institution avoid misinformation and rumors.

Communicating with your students during the CoronavirusTips for moving to the online environment

As more schools are moving online, it's crucial that institutions are equipped with best practices for communication. Some institutions are turning to text messaging to circulate campus updates. Below are some tips specifically for this use case.

1. Use texting as a direct line of communication between instructors and students.

Often, faculty frown at the thought of giving their students their personal cellphone numbers. Instead, with the right platform, instructors can give a virtual number to communicate with their students. This allows students to have real-time communication with instructors during a time when fast communication is everything. Even better, instructors can quickly respond to messages directly from their phones or their computers, whichever they prefer.

2. Use event-triggered messaging to track assignments.

Event-triggered messaging can be the key to keeping students on track while the campus environment moves online. For example, an automated message flow can be configured so that when students submit an assignment and their instructor notes it has been submitted, students will receive a text with instructions to move forward to the next assignment. While instructors may not have face-to-face communication with their students, reminders can be programmed ahead of time, alleviating the overflowing workloads of instructors while communicating with students.

3. Use automation to keep students on track.

Instructors can program automated message flows to ensure that students remain on track to finish the semester strong. For example, the instructor can pre-program a question asking if students have read chapter 5 of the assigned text. When students answer yes, they can receive an automated message instructing them to complete an online quiz. When students answer no, they can receive an automated message telling them the reading is due by Wednesday. This helps keep students on track without forcing instructors to reach out to each student individually to keep them on track.

4. Ease concerns by giving students a direct line to campus administration.

Many students are filled with questions about their education as their campuses move online or suspend classes for the rest of the semester. Will they get a tuition refund? Will they still graduate on time? When will campus reopen? These questions can be answered in the most timely and efficient manner via text message. Providing students with a number to text whenever they have questions can help alleviate their fears. Further, the Virtual Advisor can help answer some of students' most frequently asked questions, which is a benefit both to students who need timely responses and to staff who are overwhelmed right now.

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