Person sitting down, using cellphone

Study on Student-Faculty Interactions Finds Multi-Channel Communication is Key

Gross Applies Award-Winning Research as Great Lakes Strategist

—While college instructors may not be as comfortable as millennials with using multiple channels for communication, a recent study by Dr. Liz Gross shows increased frequency in out-of-classroom interactions between students and instructors who offer multiple platforms to connect.

In her dissertation, Gross studied a variety of in-person, online, and mobile communication methods as modes of student-faculty interaction to determine if their use was related to the total quantity of student-faculty interactions. Key findings include the following.

  • There was no one magic method of communication.
  • The number of channels used for communication was the biggest correlator with how often students interacted with instructors.
  • Students had an average of 20.8 interactions with instructors per month.
  • Typically, students used between three and five different methods to communicate with their instructors.
  • The 10 percent of students who also used social media channels had more than twice the interactions of other students.
  • Millennials are more comfortable using a variety of communication channels than instructors typically are.
  • To maximize interaction with students, instructors should provide their office hours, as well as phone number, email, and cell number for texting.
  • Simplifying technologies and communication methods for instructors—and centralizing communications with a dashboard—could help facilitate student interaction with faculty.

Findings from the study, "An Examination of the Relationship between the Communication Methods Used in Out-of-Class Student-Faculty Interactions and the Content and Frequency of Those Interactions," can be used to help navigate the fragmented communication landscape students live in. The study can provide faculty with recommendations for nurturing specific communication methods and developing training programs for multi-channel communication strategies.

Portrait of Liz Gross

At Great Lakes—where Gross is Social Media and Market Research Strategist—her research orientation helps drive the organization's efforts to test and apply communication methods that are effective in reaching and motivating student loan customers to take action. Her expertise in the area of social media related to higher education communication has also helped Great Lakes build highly interactive social media channels, making it possible for students to reach out for valuable and reliable information on topics such as student loans, credit, budgeting, and repayment plans and assistance. Thousands of students interact daily with Great Lakes on these channels, with an average response time of less than one hour.

Along with other American Association of University Administrators award honorees, Gross will present her dissertation results and receive the Leo and Margaret Goodman-Malamuth Outstanding Dissertation Award in San Antonio, Texas on June 11.

Gross is a dynamic speaker and thought leader, presenting at numerous conferences and trainings over the past five years. As a faculty member of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education Social Media and Community Conference in spring 2016, Gross led a workshop on crafting a social media strategy and a session on social listening. She presented her dissertation, as well as a "genius lab" on social listening, at the American College Personnel Association College Student Educators International Conference in Montreal. Gross also presented at the NASFAA 2015 annual conference on the topic of online communication with students, and has presented and been cited in numerous publications for her expertise on such topics as effectively using social media in financial aid; using social media as a means of advancing your career; conducting social media audits and competitive analysis; and increasing social media interaction.

For more information about her research findings, email, or follow Liz on Twitter at @LizGross144.

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