How to Text Students with Mass Text Messaging for Schools, Colleges, Universities & Higher Education
Educators and administrators do a lot of communicating with students, parents, faculty, and staff. Most of this is done via email and phone calls.
So in this article, I cover:
- What school text services are
- Why SMS text messaging works for colleges, universities, higher ed, and K-12 institutions
- How to get started with a school text service
- Eight ways teachers, educators, and administrators use school text services
- Four best practices for texting in higher ed and K-12
- Education text message templates and examples
Read on for more.
Why SMS Text Messaging Works for Colleges, Universities, Higher Ed and K-12 Institutions
Email and voice calls will always have their place when it comes to school communication.
But there are advantages to text messages compared to email and voice because:
- Email inboxes are overflowing.
- Many emails get flagged as spam.
- People don’t always answer the phone.
- Voicemails often get forgotten.
- 67% of people prefer texting.
- Texts have up to a 98% open rate.
So here’s how texting for schools compares to email and voice.
Texting vs email
Email is the standard communication tool for many schools, colleges, and universities. It’s accessible, relatively secure, and fairly convenient.
Email is also the most widely adopted communication method in the world. It’s not going away.
But email inboxes are overflowing. It's often hard to cut through the noise and sail through spam filters. This is especially true for urgent or time-sensitive messages.
So many emails to faculty, staff, students, and parents go unnoticed.
And because emails go unnoticed, they often suffer from low open and engagement rates. In fact, the average email open rate is around 20% and almost 53% of emails get marked as spam.
So it's easy to expect delayed responses or no response at all with email.
Plus, texts are usually more concise and actionable than emails. This makes them easy to read and respond to.
And many people read texts immediately, which is why texts have up to a 98% open rate.
The takeaway is that you’ll always need to send emails. But SMS for schools gives you a new, faster way to engage and get your most urgent messages read.
Texting vs calling
Voice calls are another essential communication tool. They’re great for immediate and personalized conversations.
But faculty, staff, parents, and students don’t always pick up the phone.
And be honest. You don’t have the time to call everyone on a roster or in a list serve.
Even with autodialers or some other voice service, you can’t automate calls like you can with texts and emails.
And telephone culture is on the decline too.
- People are 7x more likely to respond to a text than a phone call.
- 1 in 4 people won’t listen to voicemails from anonymous callers.
- 3 out of 5 Millennials reply with texts vs. answering a phone call.
However, people do check their phones every four minutes. This means your contacts are likely to read and take action based on your texts.
Bottom line: students, parents, faculty, and staff want quick, convenient interaction on their terms. Texting provides that convenience.
SMS allows educators and administrators to convey information quickly and efficiently without having to play phone tag.
How to Get Started with a School Text Service
What are the best parts about higher education texting platforms and mass texting services for schools?
You can text a lot of people at once without a personal phone number.
These features help schools, teachers, and administrators limit risk. They also add messaging oversight, create consistency, and allow you to track your text message blasts.
Here’s what you need to know about getting started with a school text service tied to a business number.
1. Choose the right school texting app or SMS text alert system for schools
The best texting apps for teachers, students, parents, and staff will save time, increase messaging efficiency, and extend your messaging reach.
But you have many business text messaging services to choose from. So consider what features you need before you buy.
Do you need a mass texting service or text alert system for your school, college, or university?
You’ll want higher ed texting software that comes with A2P carrier-verified delivery and bulk texting features. Without these tools, you can’t text at scale and your text messages won’t get delivered.
Do you need a school texting app for one-on-one, two-way, parent, student, or staff communication? Then you’ll want a text service with a shared team SMS inbox.
An SMS inbox allows you and other faculty and staff to route, organize, and manage inbound and outbound text conversations. You can even add comments and tag and mention other admins or staff within individual text threads.
MessageDesk comes with all of the above texting features for schools and more.
2. Create a free account
Regardless of the school text service you choose, create a free account first. This gives you a chance to test drive and understand how things work.
3. Set up your school or administrative department phone number
Next, you’ll need to get a business text number.
Five and six-digit short codes used to be the only way to text mass notifications.
But educators have a range of SMS phone number options. These include:
- 10-digit local phone numbers
- Toll-free 800 area code phone numbers
MessageDesk even gives you a way to text-enable phone number extensions and set up call forwarding.
4. Create and save text message templates
Faculty, staff, and administrators often find themselves sending the same texts to parents, students, and others over and over again.
SMS school messaging apps make it easy to create pre-saved text message templates.
I’ve even included a list of free copy-and-paste text message templates for you below.
5. Compose and schedule texts
Once you’ve personalized and saved text message templates, you can send two-way texts from an SMS inbox immediately. You can also schedule one-way text message broadcasts to groups of contacts at a later date.
Text message broadcasts are a great way to reach people with school closing text alerts, updates, notifications, reminders, and more.
6. Set up automated text messages
Automated text messages save time.
Autoresponder texts are keyword based. When someone texts a keyword like “WEATHER,” “ALERTS,” or “ATTENDANCE,” they get an immediate auto-response text message.
You can even chain autoresponders together for multiple text replies.
This feature also works well when you or other faculty or staff are away or out of the office. You can set your office hours in MessageDesk and automatically send a text when someone texts during non-school hours.
This can help you and your team scale your messaging and set communications expectations.
8 Ways Teachers, Educators, and Administrators Use School Text Services
I’ve covered how to get started with a school text service. But what are some specific ways you can use text messaging for schools?
Here are eight ways you can use a school messaging system to communicate with students, parents, faculty, staff, and educational communities.
1. Set up school closing text alerts and emergency notifications
Alerting students, parents, faculty, staff and the community is essential in emergency situations. This kind of communication needs to be fast and timely.
Texting allows you to send out emergency alerts to many contacts with just the touch of a button. This feature works well for weather updates and alerts as well as emergency and crime situations.
2. Send text message broadcasts about school events
Text message marketing is a great way to build awareness around school and academic events.
Text message marketing campaigns can drive better event attendance too. You can get the word out and can keep an event top of mind.
3. Use texting for recruitment and admissions communications
Text-to-apply is a great way to recruit staff, faculty, and employees. But you can also use it to keep students and parents updated throughout the admissions, application, or enrollment process.
All you need is to set up a keyword autoresponder like APPLY to collect applicants. Keywords like STATUS or UPDATE can also opt students and parents into notifications regarding your admission or enrollment process.
4. Provide text support and service to parents, students, faculty, and the community
There’s no need to burn time sending tons of emails or talking on the phone. The better way for your school, college, university, or academic program to provide service and support is with text messaging.
A school text service like MessageDesk makes it easy to route conversations to the right person. This leads to fast answers to questions and quick responses.
5. Schedule reminders and send confirmations
Text message reminders and confirmations are a time-saving power move.
With a text messaging platform like MessageDesk, you can schedule event reminders, updates, notifications, and more. This allows you to message entire groups of students, parents, and faculty in bulk.
6. Share links, documents, and images
Document sharing between you, your students, their parents, and other faculty or administrators can save a lot of time.
Inevitably, you’ll request a document and get the wrong one in return. It’s then a hassle asking for the right document, getting a physical copy, and keeping the whole process going.
7. Get feedback from surveys and polls
Surveying, polling, and collecting feedback are all essential activities for improving programs, gauging learning outcomes, and more. The best way to make a poll or survey meaningful is to get a large enough response rate.
Text messaging makes this possible. It's a direct and immediate way to message students, parents, and faculty and share links to survey software.
The best way to use text messaging for polling and surveys is to save a link in a text message template. This works well when using a survey platform like Survey Monkey or Google Forms.
8. Save and print text message conversations
Centralizing your school or program’s communication creates oversight and protects against liability.
Text messaging services like MessageDesk make tracking your text message correspondence easy.
Select a date range and save all text message correspondence with any parent, student, or faculty member as a PDF. You can also print text message conversations and store them as paper records.
5 Best Practices for Texting in Higher Education and K-12
Before you start texting, there are some best practices to keep in mind.
Higher ed texting best practices may differ from K-12. But the following are universal best practice professional texting guidelines.
1. Get consent and manage opt-in and opt-out compliance
The first thing to know about how to text students, parents, faculty, and staff is consent.
I recommend that you include a statement regarding text communication in your classroom syllabus, agreements, policies, or procedures documentation. You want to let students, parents, and faculty know that you’d like to contact them via text message.
For marketing and promotional messages, you’ll need express written consent. This is the highest level of consent in the messaging world.
Consent is part of TCPA compliance guidelines and best practices. Sending unsolicited text messages without consent is a major offense and can result in serious fines.
But business text messaging services like MessageDesk help to protect you from sending texts to contacts who haven’t opted in.
When a message recipient texts back “STOP”, MessageDesk automatically flags that contact. The software prevents you from sending a message to them again.
MessageDesk also offers tools like opt-in forms to help you get and manage consent from contacts for more professional messaging.
Disclaimer: Please note that my advice is for informational purposes only. It’s not a substitute for advice from qualified legal counsel (which I am not).
2. Don’t send or receive confidential information over text
You always want to protect confidential student information. This is especially true when it comes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
So don’t send confidential or personal information via text.
Also, know that SMS text messaging is fundamentally an unsecured technology. This is because messages travel across carrier networks and get stored on carrier servers.
This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t text students, parents, and faculty. Just be sure to double-check the content of your messages first.
Some text messaging platforms do offer SOC 2 security compliance. But no one currently offers fully encrypted text messaging technology.
3. Don’t send or receive text messages using your private phone number
Most text messaging platforms (like MessageDesk) allow you to text using a number separate from your personal phone number. This is particularly useful for individual teachers, instructors, and educators.
You want to remain accessible to students, parents, and faculty. But you won’t want to give out your personal phone number.
4. Comply with the Clery Act using SMS for colleges and universities
Higher ed SMS for institutions also helps colleges and universities comply with the Clery Act.
The Clary Act is a federal statute that applies to colleges and universities. Higher education institutions that participate in federal financial aid programs have to keep and disclose information about crimes on their campuses.
Participating institutions must also provide timely warnings of crimes that represent a threat to the safety of students or employees.
One of the best ways to do this is with a higher ed texting program for universities. SMS texting for higher ed ensures that any warning or school text alert gets received and read immediately.
Higher ed texting programs for institutions and SMS for universities can also help coordinate security personnel and inform concerned community members.
Education Text Message Templates and Examples
Below I’ve included a list of free educational text message templates and examples.
Feel free to copy, paste and edit any of these SMS samples. You’re also free to check out my list of 60+ text message templates and examples.
Student attendance and notices to parents
School text services make it easy for parents to text in an excuse for a student’s attendance. Faculty can also text parents to let them know students missed a class.
Meeting reminders and appointment scheduling for parents
There’s no need to use a dedicated parent teacher communication app. Texts can help remind parents of upcoming parent-teach conferences and meetings.
Autoresponder messages for after-hours
Set up an out-of-office autoresponder to let people know when you’re away and when you’ll return.
Team and event updates
Text messaging can remind athletes and parents. Send text for upcoming events, practices, fundraisers, sign-up reminders, and anything else your sports team is putting together.
Grade notifications and report cards
Give parents a head up that report cards have been sent out or that grades are now available for review.
Homework assignment reminders
Use text messages as a notification system to help parents and students stay on track with homework assignments and due dates. Teachers can send assignments, links to handouts, google slides presentations, or additional learning materials.
Inclement weather alert
School closing text alerts are a great way to let everyone know that campus will be closed due to weather conditions.
Report card and grade notifications
School text messages to parents also work well for report card and grade notifications.
Emergency text alerts
Text alerts are crucial in the event of emergency situations.
School closures and reopenings
Event feedback or learning outcome surveys
Administrators can use text messages to send surveys and collect feedback. Teacher texting apps can also help instructors gauge learning outcomes.
Final thoughts and next steps
Ready to start texting students, faculty, staff, and parents? MessageDesk is here to help with smarter, simpler text messaging.
Start your free MessageDesk trial today or meet with a messaging expert for a demo.