Nudge Hotline and Toolkit: Resources to Support Student Success

Ben Castleman is Assistant Professor of Education and Public Policy & Director, Nudge4 Solutions Lab, University of Virginia

eAIR: Will you tell us a little bit about the Nudge Hotline and Toolkit?

The Nudge Hotline and Toolkit (both free resources) are designed to help educators at both the secondary and higher education levels use evidence-based nudge strategies to help students gain access to and succeed in college. The Toolkit provides concrete, actionable guidance on 13 behavioral nudge strategies that have been demonstrated to improve student outcomes through rigorous research studies. We structured the Toolkit to provide educators with as detailed and easy-to-digest information as possible about the core features of each evidence-based strategy, along with guidance on how to implement these strategies. The Hotline is a service that educators can contact for individualized support from a behavioral designer to customize and adapt nudge strategies to work in educators’ institutions and for their students.

eAIR: Why and how were they created?

We created the Toolkit and Hotline because we know that educators, like IR professionals, balance many competing demands for their time, and don’t always have the flexibility to invest deeply in learning about evidence-based strategies and how these strategies can be modified to work in one’s own educational setting. The Toolkit helps educators zero in on evidence-supported strategies that can positively impact students and provide concrete guidance on how to adopt these strategies for one’s own students. Even with the guidance in the Toolkit, we know that educators still might need extra support and/or have questions while they’re thinking about implementing a nudge strategy with their students. Our behavioral designers can provide this assistance and walk educators through the process of adapting nudge solutions to work in their settings.

eAIR: What are some ways that IR professionals can utilize the Hotline and Toolkit?

We know that colleges and universities rely increasingly on analytics and advanced data to identify students most in need of support and to provide these students with customized guidance on how they can succeed and advance to graduation. My impression is that much more effort to date has gone into the analytic side of this work, and less has gone into how we design our communication strategies to most effectively relay actions and recommendations that emerge from the analytics. Take predictive analytics as an example. Let’s say an IR professional is working with a risk rating software, and several students are flagged as being at serious risk of withdrawal prior to the end of the term. There’s real risk that we could create more harm than good if, when we reach out to students noting our concern and offering assistance, we reinforce doubts they already have about their own potential to succeed in higher education. Behavioral science, with its central focus on human decision making, offers a framework for communicating with students in a way that maximizes engagement and ideally minimizes unintended behavioral responses. The Toolkit and Hotline offer strategies that IR professionals could use to maximize the positive outcomes of their data-driven outreach to students. I also imagine that student affairs and student retention offices would be great collaborators for this work.

For more information about the Hotline and Toolkit, visit the 
Nudges, Norms, & New Solutions website.  




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