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How Smart Horizons Career Online Education uses SMS to support the success of second-chance students

Across the United States, millions of older youth and adults who dropped out of high school are in need of a second chance at graduation. Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE), launched in 2009, helps meet this need by providing academic support to nontraditional students. Since it began, SHCOE has helped more than 14,000 students graduate — and enrollment continues to climb.

The challenge: Scaling their communication … without losing the personal touch

As a school designed for nontraditional students, SHCOE sees people from all walks of life. From single parents who quit school to put food on the table to immigrants new to the country, SHCOE students face serious challenges. “It’s hard to stay motivated on something when you’re working a full-time job, raising children, running a household,” said Kelley Newman, Academic Coach Team Lead at SHCOE. “We’re there to serve as academic coaches and cheerleaders to help our students succeed.” But with the school adding students faster than ever, SHCOE needed a way to communicate at scale while still making each and every student feel fully seen and supported.

The solution: Provide direct, immediate support through automated and personal SMS

With so many students in need of academic coaching and support, SHCOE turned to Sinch MessageMedia’s Mercury SMS as the perfect approach that would combine personal contact with automation. SHCOE uses Salesforce to manage student records, and Mercury SMS provides a great way for student coaches to automate standard messages, and also send personal (and sometimes motivational) messages to students.

“Not everything can or should be manually texted,” Kelley explained. “If I’m asking for transcripts, we can automate that. But if I notice a student has been missing assignments, SMS also gives me a way to reach out personally and ask if everything’s okay.” By using SMS to communicate, SHCOE’s academic coaches can handle caseloads of as many as 300 students without sacrificing personal attention.

The results: Students feel seen, valued, and motivated to graduate high school

While SMS automation has helped SHCOE to scale their student support, personal texting still accounts for as much as 80% of the communication students receive. This outreach is having an impact. “It helps students to get a quick response from their coach — they’re not refreshing their email or leaving a voicemail. The text messages make students feel like they’re your utmost priority,” Kelley said. For students determined to get their diplomas, having a coach in close contact can make a life-changing difference.

Graduates tell us, “If it wasn’t for those messages, I wouldn’t be here today. If it wasn’t for my coach checking in, if it wasn’t for those notes of encouragement.” Those text messages remind them someone believes in them.

Kelley Newman, Academic Coach Team Lead, Smart Horizons Career Online Education

Sinch MessageMedia also has integrations with over 85 platforms, including Hubspot, Salesforce, Shopify, BigCommerce, and Zoho, creating a seamless turn-key customer engagement solution for small and medium-sized businesses.

Those text messages remind them someone believes in them.

Kelley Newman, of Smart Horizons Career Online Education, says adding text messaging to their student communications mix support has allowed the academic coaches to ensure each and every student feels fully seen and supported. Ready to give it a try?