Automated email responses might be a good indicator of work overload. Faculty and professors start each day knowing they’ll be fielding hundreds of emails on top of their already busy workload. On top of teaching, advising, counseling, planning, and meeting with students and colleagues, managing emails is a full-time job in and of itself. Faculty and staff are struggling to stay afloat.
The Truth About Automatic Replies
The only solution to make sure every student request is acknowledged is to send out an automated message saying they’ll get back to them soon. If you can’t respond right away, an automated email seems like the next best thing. Something is better than nothing.
Meanwhile, students on the receiving end are met with messages full of information about where to find help online, who else to contact for help, where to register for an event, where to request a transcript, how to drop a class, etc. They’re left to sift through all the options listed in the email, and it’s just too complicated, especially when their question requires human help and they’ve exhausted all other options.
Auto responses are supposed to help students solve a problem, but the messages assume students haven’t tried getting help online or on the university website. Yes, some students are going to ask questions that can be quickly addressed on a web page. However, most students have tried getting help online, and now they need specific information or assistance from a real person. At that point, are they really going to receive an automated response with optimism?
Now, to clarify, automated email replies are not a bad thing. We don’t suggest eliminating them. But if email is the primary way faculty/professors and students communicate and it’s not working, we should find a better way to ensure students get the help they need right when they need it.
Slapping a Band-Aid on a Much Larger Problem
On the surface, an automated email is easy to compose, and faculty can use it to communicate without implementing or learning any new technology. It’s a temporary fix until faculty have time to compose individual responses. That’s the problem, though. Automated email responses are just band-aids that cover up but don’t fix the real problem—the fact that students are unable to get help exactly when they need it.
Consider this: What’s the fastest way for a student to get in touch with the right faculty member when they need help at your campus?
Is it via email? A chatbot? A Zoom waiting room? Walking to a physical office location to talk with someone in person? How long does it take to find answers? The reason we ask is because very few institutions provide immediate support right when students need it. It’s usually a slow and complicated process at most colleges and universities. Here are a few reasons why:
- Existing communication methods are inherently slow. Emails are delayed. Zoom waiting rooms are just that—waiting rooms. Chatbots waste time and prolong the support process. Appointments require advance scheduling. None of the ways institutions communicate with students are instant.
- Faculty are overloaded and don’t have time to dedicate to finding a better solution.
- Student-to-faculty ratios are extremely high. Faculty and staff struggle to keep up with the demand.
Faculty are managing hordes of students and they don’t have time to give everyone the full attention they deserve. Students have become more like products in a manufacturing facility traveling through a pipeline while faculty checks off the boxes trying to get around to each student’s request. Faculty and professors are just trying to do what they can with the resources available. Students are just trying to get a quick answer so they can focus on classes, but student support is slow and complicated. Somehow neither group is getting what they need.
What’s the Best Way to Communicate with Students?
Faculty need some breathing room, and students should be able to get help when they need it. Is it possible for both to happen? It seems one group will always have to make a sacrifice. And of course it seems that way, because up until recently, no technology has existed that can both 1) make faculty’s jobs less stressful, and 2) get students the help they need in the moment. Now, that technology exists in the form of EVAN360. EVAN360 is transforming the higher education landscape and championing the next wave of higher education technology.
If you’re curious about the platform and want to learn more, request a personalized, recorded demo here and we’ll create and send one within 24 hours.