What did the students think? Feedback from our trial participants

Maija Koponen & Kim Hall, King’s College London |

When talking about our project, we’re often asked how students felt about our frequent nudging – and all the text messages sent. Over the course of the KCLxBIT project we ran 5 large scale text message trials, one of which alone involved texting students 4 times within a few weeks’ time. During the Welcome Fair trial we texted students 3 times within just 6 days. Students’ views have been a core theme of the project, so naturally we were keen to find out how students felt about our novel approaches.


At the beginning of the 2nd year of the project students were offered a chance to opt out of all our seven RCTs – the King’s Community Ambassador phone calls, the What I Wish I’d Known programme and the text message trials (which were sent in the name of the ‘King’s Tips’ service). Only 12 students chose to opt out of King’s Tips – out of the over 4000 involved in the trials – and no one opted out from What I Wish I’d Known. For King’s Community Ambassadors, students were texted 48 hours before the calls to notify them of the nature of the call and to give them the opportunity to opt out. In addition to the text, students could also opt out of the scheme upon receiving the call. In total, out of the 1000 students involved 17 opted out upon receiving the text message and 36 opted out upon receiving the phone call.

First year feedback

At the end of the first pilot year we carried out facilitated telephone interviews with 20 students who had received one of our very first interventions. Whilst some students did comment that the texts they had received had not been particularly useful to them, they remained open to the experience of receiving texts: just over 64% of students said they had found the experience useful, but over 70% agreed that they would opt into receiving text messages again in the future.  One of the respondents noted that the exam texts had been particularly helpful, whilst another reported they enjoyed the experience of the university being in touch during revision over Christmas.

What I Wish I’d Known programme

At the end of the What I Wish I’d Known programme, we carried out a feedback survey with 80 students who had taken part in the programme. 65% responded neutral, agree or strongly agree to the question whether they would opt in to receive text messages and e-mails from the programme in the future (15% neutral, 30% agree, 20% strongly agree). A key piece of information from this feedback was that students did not mind being contacted by us by texts and e-mails. Text messages were particularly popular, and many students reported they were useful for their concise information and accessibility – especially for students who stated they were not in the habit of using their King’s inbox. 72.5% said the number of messages they received during the programme was “just right”, with an additional 16.3% stating they would have liked to receive more messages.

The diaries and event invitations were also positively received –  40% of respondents strongly agreed they had been pleased to receive the diary in the mail, with an additional 17.5% agreeing with this statement. 68.8% responded neutral or above to the question of whether they had found the programme overall useful, with 58.8% of these answers being agree or strongly agree. Comments largely mirrored feedback from the first year – a recurring comment from students was that they found it reassuring to know King’s staff would be able to help them if they needed support, and one student said the programme had made them feel as though someone at King’s was looking out for them. Overall, while the feedback for the programme has not been overwhelmingly positive, it has been useful in informing adjustments we have made. In the second year of the programme we’ve included more text messaging and incorporated topics requested by the students (such as finding private accommodation) at key points of the e-mail schedule, in an attempt to further increase its relevance for our students.

King’s Community Ambassadors

We were also interested to hear how students had reacted to the calls from our King’s Community Ambassadors. In the first pilot year fewer students had been treated in this nudge but a third said they strongly agreed that they had found the calls useful, and over 80% scored the calls as of neutral use or above. Respondents gave the same responses when asked if they would opt in to receive the calls again in the future, with one student noting that, although they had not needed the phone call, it had been appreciated.

At the end of the second pilot year a feedback survey was sent round to some of the students who participated in the calls. It was found that 57% of students who filled out the feedback survey agreed that the calls helped them to get a better idea of who to contact when they needed help, with 5% strongly agreeing. When asked whether it was helpful to speak to another King’s student who could relate to their experiences, 85% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed. One of the recurring comments from students receiving the calls was that they felt that the calls were helpful and that it is good to know that there are people to speak to.

Panel Survey

At the end of the final panel survey in July 2017, we also asked participants for optional feedback on their experience of taking part in the survey. A few students commented that some of the surveys had felt a bit lengthy. Overall, however, student had been happy to take part in the surveys, and while our financial incentive (£5 M&S voucher per survey completed) may have had an impact, several students commented that it was nice to know that the university was concerned about what students thought and felt, and how they were doing in life in general. A recurrent theme in feedback was that students appreciated being asked about their wellbeing rather than simply being asked for feedback on aspects of the university.

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