ECoach pilot: Can messages and nudges influence student success?

whistle with alerts surrounding it

Do students benefit from prompts that offer study tips and reminders; can they lead to student success?

In Spring 2021, the University of Minnesota started a two-year pilot to investigate these questions. ECoach, developed by the University of Michigan, is a tailored messaging system that supports students by facilitating one-on-one communication and coaching that is responsive to their course participation and performance. 

Leslie Schiff, Associate Dean for the University Curriculum in the Office of Undergraduate Education, was motivated to bring ECoach to the University of Minnesota to explore the tool’s potential to personalize the education experience in large gateway classes. During the pilot’s first semester, 544 students in three gateway classes opted to participate.

How does it work?

Instructors work with the ECoach support team to create messaging to help students meet their unique course goals. These messages are sent based on predetermined triggers (e.g. timing or performance on an exam) to provide students the right message at the right time. ECoach can tailor support and coaching messages using:

  • Canvas class data (grades, attendance, engagement, etc.)
  • Student ECoach survey data (motivation, grade goals, likelihood to use certain services, etc.)
  • Demographic data (NAS, academic standing, GPA, etc.)

Example ECoach message

ECoach also contains additional tools and features, each of which can be individually used or turned off.  These include:

  • Grade calculator - displays current status in the course and remaining assignments
  • Exam Playbook - guides a student in assembling a list of study resources and a plan to use them to prepare for exams
  • To-Do lists - identifies tasks a student should complete in a given course week 

Initial findings

In courses that incentivized student participation, student adoption was extremely high (on average 75%). Insights shared during student focus groups and data from an end-of-semester survey (completed by 88 students) provided encouraging feedback. 

  • Students reported that they appreciated the ability of ECoach to provide timely course tips and recommendations as well as academic success strategies. 
  • Students were overwhelmingly positive about the supportive and non-judgmental tone of the timely messages. 
  • There was little evidence of a negative response on students’ part, except possibly the perception that ECoach messages were repetitive.

During the coming three semesters of the pilot, we will build on these insights.

The pilot’s two-year initial commitment is made possible with funding from the Provost's Office. This pilot is being facilitated collaboratively by:

  • Center for Educational Innovation
  • Academic Success Centers
  • Academic Technology - Office of Information Technology
  • Office of Undergraduate Education
  • Participating Faculty