Reaching Students Outside the Classroom


To the current generation of undergraduate students, email seems old fashioned. Sometimes faculty can be hesitant to use email, let alone send a text message or use Facebook. So is it possible to meet in the middle? We think so, but with a little buy-in from both sides.

According to her Chronicle of Higher Education article Katherine Mangan in As Students Scatter Online, Colleges Try to Keep Up, relying solely on email with this generation of students is difficult at best. Michael Huffman, director of student services for Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Education, stated in an article on VCUInsight that email is becoming the second or third choice of communication for students. Students may only check their school email once or twice a week and if they have too many messages, most get deleted. Additionally, if a subject line of an email is too vague, it’s deleted or filtered into a spam box. "Our generation is used to having everything at the drop of the hat. We want it quick and easy and to the point," said a student quoted in As Students Scatter Online, Colleges Try to Keep Up.

Direct communication without overwhelming students with too much information is an important lesson. However, with the foray of institutions and academic departments into social media, the idea is to inundate all communication channels with the same information to ensure that all students will get the message. Mangan argues that the problem with this idea is students then tune it out.

Rebecca Ramspott, a social media specialist at Frostburg State University, emphasized the importance of not overwhelming students by sending the same message to multiple sites. If email messages as well as Facebook and Twitter feeds regularly say the exact same thing, students won’t attend to the "very important" information.

The key to successfully reaching students outside the classroom is to find out what works best for everyone and then communicating what the expectations are on both ends. Do students prefer an email with a change of assignment? Will the class schedule only be posted on Blackboard? Maybe discussion for an online class will be on Twitter instead of in a Blackboard forum. Utilizing these new forms of communication is vital in staying relevant to students, but only with routine, structure, and set expectations can one truly be effective in connecting with students outside the classroom.


Mangan, K. (September 10, 2012). As Students Scatter Online, Colleges Try to Keep Up.

The Chronicle of Higher Education.