Enhancing Student Communication

Problem

As messaging software continues to evolve, universities are finding it more difficult to communicate to students in a relevant, timely, and personalized manner. As a result, students at California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) are being bombarded with emails from various university entities. Students may be unable to find any information relevant to them and stop paying attention to their emails. Students are then likely to overlook important messages that are surrounded by other unrelated material. Students not seeing critical information about deadlines, class registration, and deliverable due dates can result in academic hardship or even delayed graduation.

Approach

Fresno State approached California Polytechnic State University’s Digital Transformation Hub (DxHub) powered by Amazon Web Services, with the goal of creating more relevant communication with students. The objective was toenhance and improve the overall student experience, increase the likelihood of a student graduating in a timely manner, and coordinate a campus-wide communication strategy. To define a solution, the DxHub and Fresno State utilized Amazon’s Working Backwards methodology to solve the problem by focusing on what students need and want.

During the innovation workshop, Fresno State’s team collaborated to fundamentally change the way students receive information from the university as a whole.  Central to this new approach was to flip the current model from a university centered push to a student-centered pull of information. This approach will be created around three main aspects of a universal communication platform:

  1. Students can complete a preference list on categories that wish to receive information about
  2. Students can ask a chatbot about information they need that hasn’t been communicated through the filtered category list
  3. Students help the system learn about additional needs through questions and consumption statistics.

The focus on these three goals will help this solution allow faculty, staff and administration to simultaneously support student interests and convey critical information. It will also let students have greater control over what they hear about while helping improve the very system they are using. The team is currently working on iterating prototypes to figure out how to most effectively apply these three ideas to the final product.

Next Steps

The team is working through an iterative design phase to demonstrate the user experience.  Once the user experience portion is complete, they will be to build a preference engine that can be used be students to filter content the university sends out to target content of interest.

About the DxHub

The Cal Poly Digital Transformation Hub (DxHub) is a strategic relationship with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and is the world’s first cloud innovation center supported by AWS on a University campus. The primary goal of the DxHub is to provide real-world problem-solving experiences to students by immersing them in the application of proven innovation methods in combination with the latest technologies to solve important challenges in the public sector. The challenges being addressed cover a wide variety of topics including homelessness, evidence-based policing, digital literacy, virtual cybersecurity laboratories and many others. The DxHub leverages the deep subject matter expertise of government, education and non-profit organizations to clearly understand the customers affected by public sector challenges and develops solutions that meet the customer needs.