Giving a nudge: How digital alerts can keep students on track

Colleges have the ability to gather more student data than ever before, and with that information comes the pressure to put it to good use. Nudges, when done right, are proving up to that task.Nudging is a concept that has gained traction in higher ed ever since the 2008 release of the book "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness" brought the subject to the public's attention.Put simply, nudges are interventions that steer someone toward a better decision without taking away their choice. In higher ed, they take the form of messages delivered through texts, emails or the learning management system that warn a student if they've fallen off track, alert them to important deadlines and make them aware of campus resources. Student data comes into play by helping colleges figure out who needs what kind of information most.College leaders are increasingly looking to nudges as a way to buoy student success. So far, the results are promising, with various studies finding they've helped to reduce summer melt, boost enrollment and increase retention. But experts on nudging warn it isn't a magic bullet — and can even push students out of college if the nudges aren't well-designed.

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