If your students are anything like those I work with, they are more than likely attached to their devices and difficult to reach in person. The vast majority of our traditionally aged students belong to Generation Z, a cohort that has never known of a life without the Internet, smart devices, or social media. While this group of students is not very different from those considered “Millennials,” they are extremely motivated and the majority wish to obtain a university or advanced degree. Since beginning my role at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, I have had to get creative and find ways to effectively reach and support our students while also finding methods to keep my office current when it comes to technology. While many of you may have found creative ways of providing services, I wanted to share what I have learned with each of you. Thus, I present “Five Techy Resources for Higher Education Case Managers.”
1. Apps: I used to work at Apple as a family room specialist (code for person who repairs devices). As a result, I got used to keeping my eyes out for great, new apps that could help make my life easier. Our students are certainly smart when it comes to their devices and typically don’t need help finding the newest “thing”, however many may not have ever considered downloading apps that could contribute to their positive mental health.
One great app that exists for this purpose is Pacifica. Pacifica is a free app that offers tools for dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression and an online support network of other users. It’s CBT focused for those clinical folks out there!
Another app that I highly recommend is Headspace. Headspace focuses on mindfulness and helps teach the user in short increments. I tell students that even if they are incredibly busy, they can find ten minutes a day to do a session. It is free but you can pay a yearly subscription fee to gain access to more modules (though there are more than enough free ones that are great). I personally use this one regularly and adore it!
2. Online Crisis and Counseling Services: Like I said, our students have not lived in a world without smart devices. Many of the students I meet with express discomfort in the idea of talking to someone face-to-face in therapy or may even have telephone anxiety. One of the coolest resources out there is the Crisis Text Line. This resource, supported by the JED Foundation, allows individuals to text the word “START” to the number “741-741” and start talking to a live trained counselor for free 24/7.
Another online crisis tool is IMALIVE. It’s free resource for individuals to speak to a trained crisis counselor, however at this time it is only available during certain days and times of the week.
As for non-crisis resources, I used to volunteer for 7 Cups of Tea. This is another confidential and free online tool (that also has a rad app) for individuals to speak to a trained listener. It is not a tool for crisis help, but is great for our students who want someone to talk to but may be afraid to do so face-to-face.
3. Online Scheduling: I have discovered in my student outreach attempts that students are more likely to schedule and attend a meeting with me if they are able to set up their appointment via a website, rather than if they have to call. With that, I began using an online calendar tool to allow students the freedom to create appointments at their leisure. I personally use Calendly because it is free and works with Outlook (which is the platform my institution uses for email and calendar). Calendly permits you to create multiple appointment types, which is really helpful if the length of your appointment is based on the appointment type. Many of the advisors on our campus use SuperSaaS--this tool is convenient for students because they can sign up to get text message reminders, however there is a fee associated with the institution or individual who wants to use the service.
There are so many services out there and many work better with Google calendars specifically. I recommend doing a quick Google search or to ask for recommendations in the comments of this blog post!
4. Texting: Have any of you noticed that students rarely respond to emails or phone calls and nine times out of ten they don’t even have voicemail set up on their phone? I quickly discovered in this work that the best way of reaching a student quickly (especially if there is a concern and you cannot locate an emergency contact number) is to text message them. I use Google Voice, which allows me to set up a separate number that I can use to text and call students. I am able to turn on “Do Not Disturb” when I am not at work and all of my calls and messages (both text and voicemail) are saved in my email for documentation purposes later. The iOS app is great and makes it incredibly easy to text and make calls via that number on your cell phone. The Android app is a bit more cumbersome, but still easy to use. I love this tool so much that I have convinced most of our division to do the same! If you don’t want to try Google, AIM also allows you to text students free and anonymously.
5. Electronic Referral and Intake Forms: Chances are most of us already use online referral forms. If you don’t, I highly recommend it! I request that every referral come through this method, so if a professor or parent calls about a student of concern I listen and consult with them and then request that they fill out the form so that I can fully document the report as well as ensure it is in their words (you can find mine at www.utc.edu/studentofconcern). It is also helpful to talk to your IT department and see if you can have the form located at its own URL. As you can see, mine above is relatively easy to remember. However, when you click on it you can see that the full Maxient URL is far longer and more complicated. You are able to create referral forms in both Maxient and Advocate, but if you are using a different platform you may have to get creative! Think about creating a Google form if your particular software system doesn’t offer this feature.
Outside of the referral form, I use an online intake form which has significantly cut down on my paper use in the office. The intake form automatically creates a report for me with the student’s information in Maxient that I can then use to update their case notes, etc. (I did the same thing when our university used Advocate) Students appreciate that it seems somewhat advanced, especially when they use an iPad to fill it out as they wait. If you have any questions on how to develop your own, please feel free to reach out!
Have you found any other great resources? Share them in the comments or by emailing me at Jennifer.E.Henkle@gmail.com
Jennifer Henkle (she/her/hers) works for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as the Assistant Dean of Students and Case Manager. Connect with her on Twitter: @jennifa1987 When she's not there, find her on her on Facebook or connect via LinkedIn.
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