Project Tomorrow Survey: In an App World, Email Still Reaches Parents

Project Tomorrow Survey: In an App World, Email Still Reaches Parents

Oct 15, 2019

CALL ME MAYBE: A common 21st-century adage has it that “email is for old people.” Yet it still may be the best way to consistently reach busy parents with routine teacher and school communications.

A new report from nonprofit Project Tomorrow—its 12th annual on education trends issued in conjunction with Blackboard—finds that 83 percent of parents prefer personal emails for teacher communication, followed by 64 percent who prefer text messages and 39 percent who prefer communication via mobile app. (Survey respondents apparently could identify more than one preference.)

Email also rises to the top for a second class of message: general school or district activity information. Email for that purpose is preferred by 68 percent of respondents, followed by auto phone messages and posts on school or district Facebook sites at 62 percent each.

Yet the study, called “Millennial, Gen X and Boomer Parents: Leveraging mobile-enabled social media for school-to-home communications across the generations,” shows preferences dramatically shift from email to phones for emergency notifications. Of the parents surveyed on the most effective digital tools for crisis or alert communications, email doesn’t even rank in the top five preferences that the report lists, let alone the top three. Those preferences include:

  • Auto phone messages (73 percent)
  • Text message to mobile phone (48 percent)
  • Push notification or alert sent through mobile app (47 percent)
  • Mobile app (36 percent)
  • School or district Facebook site (28 percent)

There are several variations by generation. For example, the study finds that while text messaging is a nearly consistent teacher communication preference across baby boomer, millennial and Gen X parents, at more than 60 percent each, only about half as many baby boomer parents (26 percent) prefer a district mobile app to deliver teacher notes as millennial parents (48 percent).

Project Tomorrow’s survey methodology is not strictly scientific. Survey respondents are self-selecting; that is, they respond to a general call to fill out the annual Speak Up online questionnaire. Even if it’s not a random sample, it’s a big one. The organization says the report analyzed feedback from “more than 20,000 millennial, Gen X and boomer parents and guardians nationwide.”

Likewise, Blackboard is hardly a disinterested party. Parent communication is a crowded market space, and Blackboard is a large player in a field that also includes Remind and a number of others.

Still, the clear takeaway for schools and districts? A multi-channel communications approach may be needed to reach all parents and caregivers as the communications method shifts based on the type of message—and the age of the parent.

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