Nudge Unit student text campaign boosts attendance and performance

Students who are sent text messages encouraging them to study have better attendance and academic performance, according to new research by the Behavioural Insights Team, nicknamed the "nudge unit".

Students: research finds encouraging texts could improve attendance and results
Students: research finds encouraging texts could improve attendance and results

For the past few years, the team has been looking at ways to improve levels of attendance and exam results in further education.

Researchers found simple communication – using motivational messages – can have a marked effect.

One study involved two further education colleges in England and more than 1,100 students. Individuals were sent motivational texts and organisational reminders in a bid to increase attendance and attainment within government-funded literacy and numeracy programmes.

All individuals in the study were aged 19 or older, and on basic maths and/or English courses.

The study found text messages had a positive effect. Students who received the texts were less likely to drop out. Sixteen per cent stopped attending classes compared to 25 per cent of those not involved in the study.

The experiment also resulted in a seven per cent rise in attendance and an eight per cent increase in passing exams, for those taking part.

Originally set up by the government, the "nudge unit" is now a social purpose company co-owned by the Cabinet Office and the innovation charity Nesta.

Another study, involving five further education colleges in England, looked at the impact of texting individuals, dubbed "study supporters", chosen by students for the positive influence they had on them.

These individuals were sent regular texts that encouraged them to ask students about their work, praise their efforts and wish them luck in exams.

The average attendance for students whose supporters received weekly text messages was 7.6 per cent higher than their peers.

The text campaign was carried out during the academic year ending July 2016.

The findings of the two studies have prompted the Behavioural Insights Team to develop a "behaviourally informed texting platform" for colleges, called Promptable, which has now been launched.

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