About The Evergreen State College
Founded in 1967 and located in Olympia, Washington, Evergreen is a public liberal arts and sciences college with approximately 2100 undergraduate and 200 graduate students. Offering a non-traditional interdisciplinary curriculum, students can design their own course of study based off of their interests. Evergreen is consistently recognized for its innovation in teaching and education, as well as its work to promote social and environmental good.
Many institutions do some form of an intentional interaction or 1-on-1 check in with their residents. These types of engagement allow staff members to provide more individualized and contextualized support for students. Through data collection, this can also help staff members identify trends and early warning indicators in their resident populations.
With COVID-19 social distancing requirements in place, the staff at The Evergreen State College needed a way to maintain their connections with students, while also keeping physical contact to a minimum. By leveraging Roompact’s software, the staff devised a way to use Microsurveys and Roompact’s text messaging capabilities to stay connected with and check in on their residents.
Looking for ways to connect with students, and gather information about their well-being and transitions, Evergreen staff utilized Roompact’s Mircosurvey tool. Microsurveys are short, one question polls of your residents. These surveys can be sent via email or text message, they can be sent to the entire resident population or to specific buildings, and they can include a question that is open-ended, multiple choice, likert scale, or a sentiment scale.
Once sent, residents can respond and their answers will be immediately available. Their answers are recorded and can be accessed in two places. First, answers will be individually recorded on the resident’s Timeline. Resident Timelines keep a detailed record of all interactions you’ve ever had with a student across all the features of Roompact’s software. Additionally, Microsurvey responses can be downloaded in aggregate in a spreadsheet form. This makes it easy for staff members to do quick analysis across all answers.
SMS Text-Based Microsurveys
Microsurveys allow you to do quick one-question surveys of your residents via text message (or email). This can be especially useful when doing resident check-ins and pulse-checks for retention or in crisis and emergency situations.
While some campuses will use Microsurveys as a one-off opportunity to ask questions, Evergreen experimented with microsurveys to create a regular schedule of questions to ask their students. At the beginning of the year, staff members outlined what questions they wanted to ask residents and scheduled them to send at the appropriate time in the students’ experience. By bringing more intentionality to their microsurveys, Evergreen was able to use microsurveys as a means of conversation with a resident. In addition to being able to view the responses, staff members could also respond via text or email, through Roompact, to individual students.
Here is an example of Evergreen’s microsurvey schedule:
|Timed-Release||Text Message Question|
|Move In||Hello and welcome from Evergreen Residence Life! How was your move-in experience?|
|Week 1||Hello Greener, from Residence Life! We want to know, what you are most looking forward to during this first week of class?|
|Week 3||Hello Greener, from Residence Life! How is your program going this quarter?|
|Week 5||Hello Greener, from Residence Life! We’re about halfway through the quarter, and we know you’re going strong! What are you doing to de-stress?|
|Week 7||Hello Greener, from Residence Life! What is something you’re grateful for this week?|
|Week 9||Hello Greener, from Residence Life! How are you feeling about finals and eval week?|
|Post-Quarter Survey||Hello Greener, from Residence Life! With fall quarter behind us we’re wondering, what was your favorite thing about fall quarter?|
Get Better Response Rates with Text Messaging
How many times have you heard a colleague say “Students don’t read their email!”? With Roompact’s text messaging capabilities, you’ll enjoy higher read and response rates and all the benefits of instant communication. One of the best parts of this feature is that it works two-ways. Residents can respond to your text messages and you’ll see and can reply to their response directly in the Roompact interface. In addition to basic messaging, Microsurveys allows you to do quick one-question surveys of your residents. This can be especially useful when doing resident check-ins and pulse-checks for retention or in crisis and emergency situations.
The staff at Evergreen learned a lot during their experiment with using Microsurveys in this way. Many campuses use microsurveys in a similar way, but not as a part of a frequent scheduled campaign as Evergreen had done. For campuses undertaking a similar approach, you can learn from their experience…
1. Have clear staff expectations on how the data will be used and any follow up actions that are necessary. Data should be pulled and reviewed within 24-48 hours of the microsurvey being sent so follow up actions can be coordinated and ensure the data is acted upon.
2. When replying to the microsruveys, some students responded honestly, and on target, and some answered honestly, but off target. Clearly communicate with residents that they will be receiving these texts as part of living on campus and why these messages are being sent. Also let residents know that you may respond back and educate residents on how the information will be used. Students can always opt-out of messages by replying “STOP”.
3. Be strategic in the number of microsurveys you send to avoid survey fatigue. Evergreen saw a stronger response rate earlier in the semester and it diminished over time. The sweet spot seems to be no more than 3-4 microsruveys per semester or 2-3 per quarter. Additionally, scheduled microsurveys need to be spaced out enough so that the responses recorded are attributed to the correct survey question. At least a week should be sufficient.
Although this experiment was initially done because of COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, there is no reason it cannot be continued in future years. For a small well-connected campus like Evergreen, this was one more way to connect with students and make their experience even more personal. The same idea could be adapted for other campuses or even for individual buildings or communities within a campus.
Suggestions on how you can apply lessons learned from Evergreen to your own Roompact usage:
The example provided by Evergreen is a way of scheduling Microsurveys in a more curricular-sequenced fashion. Microsurveys can also be used for polling your resident population in a number of ways. Remember that responses can be both open-ended or multiple choice/likert scale. You also need to allow at least a week between microsurveys to allow responses to be collected and attributed correctly. Here are some examples of other questions Roompact schools have used in their Microsurveys:
- We are conducting these surveys to get information directly from you all. This information helps us better serve you in our halls. How is your relationship with your roommate so far this semester?
- With finals and the holidays just around the corner, college can be stressful this time of the year. What is your biggest stressor at the moment?
- Residence Life cares about your experience here at the university. How is your experience at [institution]?
- What is one thing you are doing for self care this semester?
- We Want To Know What You Think… Living on campus has helped me engage in opportunities to learn and provide service to UNA and the Shoals community. [Likert Scale Response]
- I feel as though I have established quality relationships with people in my residence hall community. [Likert Scale Response]
- How you would classify the availability and your use of ISU mental health resources during the COVID crisis? [Multiple Choice Response]
- Now that you’ve made it more than halfway through the semester, all of us here in Residence Life wanted to ask, “How Are You?”
- The Residence Life team is here to see if we can offer any resources (let us know in your reply). How did you do on midterms?
- Hello again from the Office of Residence Life! We have another one question survey for you today. What is your level of stress and anxiety right now? [Likert Scale Response]
- Do you feel like your residence hall/apartment floor community is welcoming and inclusive?
- Do you feel you have tools and strategies to support your mental well-being? [Likert Scale Response]
- Housing is looking to collect feedback about your student staff member. Please select the choice that best captures your relationship with your RA or CA: [Likert Scale Response]
- Has your experience in Housing helped you become more culturally competent? (i.e. understanding, communicating, and effectively interacting with people across cultures)
- Do you believe your experience in housing has given you a better understanding of community responsibility?