Mass notification systems (MNS), since becoming part of the Clery Act in 2010, are an integral part of how colleges and universities communicate with students and faculty. Security and police departments put in the time and effort to implement these notifications systems for important security situations.
According to a Rave Mobile study, many campuses are simply missing out on ROI with their mass notification systems, as they aren’t taking full advantage of their investment into the technology. According to the survey, 57 percent of those polled used their MNS less than five times in a year, while 22 percent used it less than twice in a year. Most respondents (92 percent) used their systems for severe weather communications, followed by active shooter emergencies (75 percent) and class cancellations (59 percent). The majority of those surveyed (70 percent) used notifications for more than three purposes. Very few respondents said they use their notification systems outside of emergencies.
Overall, there’s more that colleges and universities can get out of the systems, says the study.
For example, they can send out official communications about shuttle bus delays, cybersecurity threats, notify about a campus event and alert the campus when there’s a viral outbreak and direct them to resources. Official notifications could also help out with move-in day, informing students (and their parents) about schedules, parking restrictions and traffic hazards.
Notifications can also be used internally, for example, to inform IT staff about computer issues or outages. Institutions could use internal notifications to find a qualified replacement when a professor can’t make it to class or update faculty about meetings.
As colleges and universities host all kinds of temporary visitors – contractors, parents, guest lecturers and conference attendees – visitor notifications would allow them to know what to do and where to go. The communications could offer general information about event parking, activities during Parents Weekend or construction sites.
Another reason to examine how your MNS is being used is a new crop of students – Generation Z. Generation Z, students who were born between 1995–2009, are digital natives and think mobile first. These new students do everything through their phones, from shopping to banking, watch YouTube more than network TV and relate to YouTube bloggers and personalities. They find email to be outdated. Generation Z is less interested in Facebook and Twitter, preferring closed messaging apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp. If you’re not using mobile safety apps as part of your MNS, the study says, you’ll struggle to communicate with Generation Z.
Generation Z students want push notifications, and they are three times more likely to engage with push notifications compared to email. Generation Z also expects notifications to be customized, otherwise they won’t engage. When these students receive targeted push notifications, such as information about wellness, they’re more likely to be engaged.
Some of nation’s safest campuses, such as Boise State University, depend on their mass notification systems to keep both students and faculty up-to-date during campus emergencies. Higher education institutions, whether they’re a four-year program or a community college, are seeking new ways to reach students.
“It can be difficult to connect with students, whether they are Generation Z or Baby Boomers. We find that many of our students don’t check email, but prefer texting or using messaging apps,” says Lori Hall, the Public Information Officer at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, OR. Clackamas has more than 25,000 students and is one of the largest community colleges in the state of Oregon.
How are you using your MNS? And how are you reaching future generations, such as Gen Z? I'd like to know. Email me at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.