Since 2017, our organizations, Jobs for the Future (JFF) and Persistence Plus, have partnered to learn more about nudging and tackle two of higher education’s thorniest challenges: increasing racial equity and developing talent for in-demand jobs. Instead of trying to determine whether nudging works or not, we recently engaged in research to identify the conditions under which nudges work—or don’t work. That information could help schools design strategies for nudging students in a thoughtful, nuanced manner. Our findings indicate that nudges can become an invaluable tool for holistically supporting learners in career pathways programs.
Addressing labor shortages within nursing and allied health professions, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, requires increasing persistence and equity among community college students pursuing these fields. In this study, we adapted and combined three values-based interventions (values affirmation, goal congruence, and utility values) into one treatment, delivered via interactive text messages, with the goal to support reenrollment among pre-allied health students during the pandemic. The treatment significantly increased reenrollment by 3 percentage points (74% vs. 71%). Examination of individual differences revealed that effects were concentrated among men (+11 percentage points), Black/African American students (+7 percentage points), and students who were not enrolled in Spring 2020 (+13 percentage points).
Simmons said, "All my life I have cared for others, never putting myself first, so you can imagine how surprised I was the first time Queensborough texted me to see how school was going."
In the 2018, Episode 120 of Teaching Matters, we learned about Persistence Plus, a communication platform that uses text messages to give students behavioral nudges toward academic success. Now, 3 years later, we can dive into the successes of this platform and how it has been expanded to address a variety of student needs, including those surrounding the pandemic. We are joined by Dr. Ross O’Hara, Director of Behavioral Science and Education with Persistence Plus, and Marisa Vernon White, Vice President of Enrollment Management at Lorain County Community College, which has been an institutional leader in use of the Persistence Plus technology.
"Students appreciate that sense that someone's actually paying attention to whether or not I succeed and they care and they want me to be successful and that really goes a long way."
Lakeland and Persistence Plus have partnered since 2017 to bolster student success via a marriage of behavioral science, mobile technology, and on-campus efforts. The strength of our partnership allowed us to tap into students’ hidden barriers with the onset of the pandemic and keep their experiences at the center of our interventions and programs.
While the internet is saturated with “hacks” for online learning, I want to connect you with the best experts I know: Students. Since March, the Persistence Plus mobile nudging support platform has asked more than 25,000 students from both two- and four-year institutions about their experiences with remote learning. Specifically, we gathered their advice about how to excel in this format, and I saw four key themes emerge.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a move to digital communication between higher education institutions and their students. As colleges and universities plan for the fall term, those communications can build needed bridges between students and their campuses.
We’ve learned a lot in the past month about supporting students and staff in crisis, and we’re thinking about how those lessons play into the larger story unfolding in higher education today. In that spirit, we want to share the steps we’ve taken to help others during COVID-19, so we can all be better prepared for the future.
Gentle reminders and offers of support via text, email or alerts may be just the motivation college students — especially minority and adult learners — need to continue in courses perceived as being tough.
Jobs for the Future (JFF) and Persistence Plus selected three institutions in Ohio and one in Virginia to implement a campuswide nudging initiative, which involved nearly 10,000 students total, after a successful pilot of the program in 2017.
Two organizations working to instill innovation in American education found big success in "nudging" strategies for STEM students within community colleges.
A behavioral "nudging" campaign at four community colleges improved student persistence rates, according to the report "Nudging to STEM Success" released Tuesday by Jobs For the Future, a nonprofit group, and the technology company Persistence Plus.
Discussing college as a public good in the same way that we do K-12 education could shift the entire concept of risk away from the individual student and toward something that all 257 million of us share so that nobody feels the weight of it. Only when we move away from these economic descriptions of college can we see it as something that everybody is entitled to and that benefits all of us.
Three local community colleges are trying to reach students where they are: their phones. The text message "nudges" started as part of a joint initiative by educational and economic-focused nonprofit Jobs for the Future and Persistence Plus, the company behind the messages.
Nearly two thirds of eligible low-income college students do not access SNAP benefits. We now know too much about human psychology to think that better information is sufficient to solve this problem. We need to leverage behavioral science to nudge more students to access SNAP.
Many students withdraw when they find themselves facing insurmountable debts, both financial and academic. Offering a fresh start could motivate them to finish their degree.
This week on Lifestyles, Lillian speaks with Cecilia Le, Managing Director for Persistence Plus, a program that supports students, helping them to navigate the path to graduation.
To finish college while navigating the challenges of everyday life, these students need to plan well and access resources designed to keep them enrolled—with very little room for error. At Persistence Plus, we’ve spent the last 7 years using behavioral science and text messaging to support college students through difficult times so they can stay in school and earn a life-changing credential.
Put simply, nudges are interventions that steer someone toward a better decision without taking away their choice. In higher ed, they take the form of messages delivered through texts, emails or the learning management system that warn a student if they've fallen off track, alert them to important deadlines and make them aware of campus resources.
In Fall 2017, Ohio partnered with Persistence Plus to create Normalizing the Transition to College for First-Generation Students, an initiative to “nudge” these at-risk students through their college experience and increase their opportunity to achieve a higher-education degree
Times are changing, and some students in California are getting academic “nudges” as text messages sent out via artificial intelligence. Getting life advice from an algorithm isn’t that weird when you consider how much we already talk to our phones — from Siri to bot therapists.
Persistence Plus is a texting service designed to help learners, especially first-year, first-generation, and adult students, succeed in college. Students receive periodic check-ins via text from an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot with questions such as ‘What’s your biggest concern about school right now?’ The bot offers advice and resources specific to each student and rooted in behavioral science.
Colleges have plenty of data on student progress but not enough guidance on how to act on it. Persistence Plus and our partner University of Washington-Tacoma offer five questions colleges should ask themselves about their strategy to nudge students.
We won’t be able to prepare our students for the rapidly changing world and technologies like AI if our education, policy, and private sector systems continue operating in silos.
Persistence Plus, Jobs for the Future, and Lorain County Community College describe their collaboration to nudge students, which resulted in a 10 percentage point gain in retention to the next year.
With access to more data and technology than ever before, campuses are implementing digital nudging interventions that are designed to fit intuitively with a student’s lifestyle.
Students at four U.S. community colleges are sticking with sometimes-demanding STEM courses with a little encouragement from personalized text messages that encourage them to complete classes.
College campuses are often a hotbed for innovation aimed at promoting student success. However, sometimes a simple text message is all it takes to point a struggling student in the right direction.
Stark State College is one of four community colleges participating in an initiative where selected students are sent periodic text messages to help them stay on track toward their degree. Early results are promising.
In a randomized trial this past summer, community college students in STEM fields who received personalized text message "nudges" to keep them on track stayed in school at a rate 10 percentage points higher than those who did not receive nudges.
Lakeland Community College and Lorain County Community College students who received guidance via text messages stayed in school at a higher rate than those who didn't, a study shows.
Through a joint initiative by Jobs for the Future and Persistence Plus, approximately 10,000 students at four leading community colleges in the United States are receiving personalized text message “nudges” that keep them on the path toward college completion and STEM success.
At some colleges, Guardian Scholars programs have partnered with a technology company to use a mobile app called Persistence Plus, which tries to nudge students toward success by sending them questions about their goals and challenges, words of encouragement and information about resources that are available.
UW Tacoma’s strategies include using carefully crafted messages, delivered by text or a phone app, to remind both freshmen and upperclassmen of critical deadlines. The messages also offer encouragement, and even suggest practical, useful tips, such as time-management skills.
The ubiquity of cell phones make text nudges one of the more effective way to reach students, according to educators like Julie Ranson, vice president of student success at John Tyler Community College. “There’s a psychological component to these behavioral nudges, about talking to students about how other students cope with college. It’s not the be-all and end-all, but it is pretty transformative when it comes to streamlining student communication and meeting the student exactly where they are,” Ranson said.
Though we know colleges care deeply about their students, college students are probably even less likely than third-graders to simply be asked what’s going on with them. So we asked.
Ms. Le described an effort in which students write themselves motivational messages. The company then sends them back “later in the term, when we know motivation flags,” she wrote. The messages are part of a suite of interventions that have been found to improve student retention.
A new project is tapping into mobile technology to increase community college completion for students in STEM fields. Nudging to STEM Success — a joint initiative from Persistence Plus, maker of a mobile app for student success, and nonprofit Jobs for the Future — will use text messages to help students navigate the complexities of college, succeed in STEM studies and move toward college graduation.
Starting this fall, tens of thousands of students will receive evidence-based behavioral nudges over text message to help them navigate the complexities of college, succeed in STEM studies and move toward college graduation. JFF is partnering with Persistence Plus to strengthen student success rates broadly, and in particular in STEM pathways.
The Online Learning Consortium today announced recipients of its 2017 OLC Effective Practice Awards, recognizing effective techniques, strategies and practices that are shared by members of the OLC community to advance quality and access to online learning programs.
"Text Your Way to College," by David L. Kirp (Sunday Review, Jan. 8), describes how nudging is helping underserved high school students choose the right college and enroll, and suggests helping many more. Let’s not stop with high school students.
We know that despite the high support that may be offered, students are often afraid to ask for help regardless—especially if they already lack confidence in their academic skills. These students struggle to manage their time and responsibilities and setbacks can lead them to question whether their sacrifices are worth it, or if they belong in college at all.
At two California colleges, students who have spent time in foster care are getting words of encouragement from their most trusted companion: a cell phone.
Middlesex Community College in Connecticut recently launched a program that regularly sends personalized text messages to students’ smartphones based on individual student needs, activities and performance. For example, messages will remind a student about an impending financial aid deadline or remind a student before an exam about available tutoring resources. These messages are specifically designed to foster individual grit and a general culture of achievement. And it has improved retention rates by seven percentage points.
One student commented how “it’s like you can’t really fail” because the nudges help motivate you. Students in developmental education, specifically, have mentioned the sense of community that nudges foster. One student said that nudges were a reminder that they were not “the only one having a crisis in the middle of the semester or worrying about finals.”
Looking for a way to help these "new traditionals" persist from freshman year into succeeding years, UWT turned to a technology that is already ubiquitous to most students: mobile. The institution was the first school to use Persistence Plus, a personalized mobile support system that uses behavioral interventions to reach out to, engage and support students throughout their college years.
The Persistence Plus cohort in mathematics and economics had higher final grades and higher passing and course completion rates. Also exciting was a finding that nudges focused on early term completion of homework and quizzes resulted in Persistence Plus students having a missed assignment rate a third that of students not receiving Persistence Plus nudges.
Perhaps even more than some other technology nudges, the Persistence Plus model shows that worries about the potentially dehumanizing effects of technology in an educational setting are misplaced. The firm’s model, while still a work in progress, may show just the opposite—that technology can be used to personalize student support through outreach of a kind that simply isn’t possible using traditional face-to-face methods.
These little nudges are such powerful motivators that a start-up is building a whole business around them. The company, called Persistence Plus, is planning a full launch in early 2013 and will contract with universities to provide digital reminders—text messages or notes through a mobile application—of assignments or exams.
An early example of this technology is being introduced by a social enterprise called Persistence Plus. Founded by Jill Frankfort and Kenneth Salim, who previously worked at the Kaufman Foundation’s Education Ventures Program, Persistence Plus uses smart software in mobile platforms such as cell phones and iPads to engage and motivate students to complete college. Think of Persistence Plus as the “Weight Watchers of college completion.”