Students Don't Embrace Text Message Alerts
Jarrett Martineau | February 28, 2008 at 11:52 amby
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It goes to show that real-world social networks, and the networking technologies that faciliate them, are only effective when they are adopted en masse. You can give a kid a cell phone, but you can't make him enroll in a text message alert program -- even when it comes to his own safety.
The massacre at Virginia Tech last year sent colleges nationwide scrambling to improve how they get alerts to students during crises on campus. One solution: Text messages sent to cell phones.
But while hundreds of campuses have adopted text alerts, most students are not embracing the system — even in an age when they consider their mobile phones indispensable.
Omnilert, a Northern Virginia company that provides an emergency alert system called e2Campus to more than 500 campuses, reports an average enrollment rate among students, faculty and staff of just 39 percent.
Another industry leader, Blackboard Connect, reports even lower participation — 28 percent for the 300 campuses that use its Connect-Ed emergency alerts.
Across the country, colleges "are really struggling with how to get the enrollment numbers up," said Steven Healey, Princeton University's public safety director and an expert on campus security.
Other companies who provide the services declined to release detailed enrollment figures to The Associated Press.
The University of Missouri's Columbia campus tried a giveaway — students who signed up for the alerts were entered in a drawing for an iPod Nano — in hopes of improving its rate. Just 15 percent of the roughly 28,000 students have requested text message alerts or cell-phone calls during emergencies.
"I found out about it a long time ago and never signed up," said Kaitlin Foley, a first-year student at Missouri from Omaha, Neb. "I was too lazy."
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