Student experience of university email communication

Robson, Linda; Cook, Lynda and Habgood, Nicolette (2016). Student experience of university email communication. In: Proceedings of the 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference, IATED, Valencia pp. 6118–6124.




Since email access has become almost universal, Universities have increasingly used email as a key communication channel. This project investigated the number and origin of email communications to students on three Open University first year undergraduate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) modules. The modules were: Topics in Science (S142), Introducing Health Sciences (SDK125) and Environment: Journeys through a changing World (U116). S142 and SDK125 are 30 credit modules amounting to about 8 hours study a week and U116 is 60 credits amounting to around 16 hours study per week and all three modules are run over 31 weeks. The number of students who started studying the modules in February 2015 was; S142 838, SDK125, 824 and U116, 494 which ran from February to October presentation in 2015.

Quantitative analysis of the number and type of emails sent to students on these modules revealed an average and maximum number of email communications per student on each module was S142: average 38, maximum 59, SDK125: average 67, maximum 82, U116: average 45, maximum 83. These figures are for students studying a single module over 31 weeks.

Qualitative analysis from interviews undertaken with 40 students from each module determined how they felt about the number and type of communications they were receiving. The outcome of this analysis revealed that students appreciated email as the main form of communication from the university, although they underestimated quite significantly the number of emails they had received.

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