[This is a guest post by Vanessa J. Alander, who teaches several sections of first-year composition and literature courses in the English Department at Plymouth State University. You can find her online at www.vanessaalander.com and more frequently on Twitter @mrsalander.--@jbj]
A constant struggle I have with students is their (in)ability to open and maintain lines of communication between the two of us. I quickly realized that students do not use their emails unless you specifically tell them to and then remind them throughout the semester.
Students, in my experience, enter college with their own email address and find checking their university-provided email an added nuisance. In response to students expressing their desire to not have another emails address to check, Boston College decided in 2008 to stop distributing email addresses to all incoming students.
I also find email an organizational nightmare, especially for the quick, FYI type communications. The “I’m running late, wait for me at the door” or “Change in schedule, meet in library Room 31 instead of classroom today” and a reminder that I was feeling generous last class and gave the students an extra day to work on their Multi-Genre Argument Project are the types of messages that I need to convey to students promptly. For these kinds of quick announcements, text messaging is probably best. (ProfHacker’s written about texting before: Natalie on sending yourself a text message reminder; Mark on hacking your library’s catalog with SMS and RSS; and Jason on tracking your habits with AskMeEvery.com.)
Enter Remind101. Remind101 is a beta web service that allows students to subscribe to a professor’s messages by sending either a text or an email message. It allows the professor to send blanket emails to the student subscribers in one, easy interface. You can send the same message to just one class or all.
After you register a class, you are given a PDF that you can print out or post on your course LMS. Students send a text to the number with the given message and they are automatically added to your course. Classes are differentiated by the spelling of the text message itself.
- Quick and easy sign up for both students and professors. Students never have to visit the site.
- Free for both parties (costs of receiving texts not included).
- Private: Never see your students’ cell numbers and they won’t see yours.
- Ability to schedule texts to send at certain dates and times.
- Set up ten “classes.”
- Students unable to reply to text messages sent by professors. (This is probably an artifact of Remind101′s being pitched, in the main, at the secondary ed market.)
- Unable to send text message from your own phone; must log into website; however, I have found the site to be Android and iPad friendly.
- Unable to send a text message to a few students; it is currently entire class or nothing.
Overall, while I desire to see future development (smartphone apps, ability to text individual students and reciprocal texting) I have found that this service builds the bridge between teacher to student communication that I was looking for. My students have responded positively. They appreciate the quick reminders and heads up when there is a schedule change or a reminder.
It’s quick, easy and free.
Do you have a favorite group text-messaging service? Please share in comments!