Stop with the FLO: using text messaging to improve retention rates in University Students

Elizabeth Boath, Richard Machin, Martin Dixon, Nigel Thomas, Phil O'Connell, Lisa Taylor


Student attrition rates in undergraduate programmes are unacceptably high. The study undertaken evaluated the use of ‘FLO’, a mobile phone automated text messaging service, designed to provide information, support and reassurance in order to help alleviate the stress and anxieties that some new undergraduate students experience during the early phase of their studies. The objectives of the study were to evaluate how use of automated mobile phone texts using a system known as FLO could usefully supplement the pastoral support currently offered to new undergraduate students. A qualitative and quantitative evaluation was conducted using an open-ended questionnaire designed specifically for the study.The sample were 39 first year, undergraduate, Level 4 students from Social Welfare Law (n=16) and Sport and Exercise (n=23) who signed up to receive texts from FLO. The questionnaire was administered in a classroom situation one week after use of FLO had ceased. Data were analysed through use of a descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. Thirty nine students signed up to receive texts from FLO and 25 (64%) completed the Qualtrics questionnaire. Largely positive findings predominated including that text messages increased a sense of belonging to the University and helped students to stay on the course. It is concluded that FLO or use of similar mobile phone protocols may be a useful addition to approaches to improve undergraduate student retention rates.       

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