Fayetteville State University Provides Successful 
Student Experience Fall Semester with Help From Upswing

Industry: Education

- Upswing’s Student Engagement Tools Help FSU Maintain 
Personal Connection with Students During Pandemic -

Austin, TX (PRUnderground) December 15th, 2020

COVID -19 disrupted the student experience at many colleges. Still, Fayetteville State University (FSU), a distinguished historically black college and university, quickly adapted by relying on Upswing’s student engagement technology to stay connected to their students and provide a successful student experience for the fall semester, the university revealed during a COVID Conversation webinar hosted by Upswing.

“COVID is a circumstance bigger than what we have ever experienced. When COVID hit, our goal as a university was to make sure that we transitioned our students to online learning while creating as little disruption as possible in our support services,” says Dr. Teresa Thompson-Pinckney, Vice-Chancellor of Student Success at Fayetteville State University.

FSU’s student population is very diverse. Fifty-one percent are transfer students, 40 percent are adult learners, and 26 percent are military (FSU is near the second-largest Army installation in the U.S.).

Dr. Thompson-Pinckney says a significant percentage of classes were already online before COVID. With the help of Upswing, the university ramped up to 100 percent online in just two weeks. The Upswing services have allowed FSU students to continue to receive academic support services such as tutoring and advisement through its virtual platform.

After performing a student assessment to better understand the impact of COVID on students, the university received critical insights about where their students were, and uncovered that students had limited access to computers and wifi.  The assessment helped to guide leadership in creating a plan to better support and serve their students.

“Before COVID, we barely began working with Upswing’s Student Engagement Platform and were in the process of making our faculty and students aware of the new resource, but the platform quickly became a valuable tool for our student engagement,” she says.

Ana Connects Students to On-campus Resources

FSU benefited most from Upswing’s virtual assistant named Ana. Ana is an SMS-based people-backed virtual assistant connecting students to on-campus resources like tutoring, advising, and financial aid.

Ana helps FSU maintain a close, personal relationship with their students to relay information that matter the most to students during their academic journey using student’s preferred form of communication: their cell phones.

“We identified important information that we needed to communicate to our students such as upcoming registration deadlines, academic resources like tutoring and advising, as well as information about their health and wellbeing throughout the pandemic,” says Dr. Thompson-Pinckney.

She says connecting with students was not only focused on Generation Z, but also there was intentionality with communicating with the adult learners. “Ana has allowed us to find ways to engage with our adult learners through texting, as well as keeping them informed about what’s going on,” she adds.

Melvin Hines, co-founder and CEO of Upswing, and a former HBCU professor says Upswing’s mission is to make it as easy as possible for students to receive help when they need it most, at their convenience.

“Ana is a new channel for FSU to engage students and open up lines of communications creating a space where students feel comfortable expressing concerns and receiving motivational nudges,” says Hines.

Upswing keeps FSU connected with their students and provides the university with valuable analytics.

“The analytics dashboard helps us to see what students are responding to and how they’re engaging with Ana. More importantly, Ana provides insight into what questions students have when they don’t know who to ask. This empowers us to triage those issues and enhance our relationship with our students,” adds Dr. Thompson-Pinckney.

Upswing for Academic Support

FSU also relies on Upswing for academic support. The university’s tutoring is online and available 24/7 through Upswing. The university runs supplemental instruction through Upswing’s platform for small group tutoring for up to five students and workshops for reading, science, and math.

FSU also relies on Upswing to remind students about homework assignments to connect them to resources they might need due to the pandemic. 

Dr. Thompson-Pinckney says that by having access to Upswing, the university established a virtual peer coaching project, and Ana reminds students with gentle nudges about what they need to know. In addition, she says FSU’s Freshman class is fully engaged through Upswing.

“We received a lot more than what we were anticipating. Upswing was right on time for us and was a blessing in disguise,” says Dr. Thompson-Pinckney. “The analytics, provide us the ability to understand who is using, and who’s not using the platform. The ability to adjust and make decisions based on that data is enormously helpful in serving our students’ needs.”

Dr. Thompson-Pinckney says, first and foremost, FSU will always be an HBCU, which requires the University to be of service to their students. 

“Preserving the University’s HBCU legacy and pride is important to our work,” she adds. As a result, we’re committed to the work of getting our students through this difficult time! We have been flexible and have consistently been adapting to the needs of our students, faculty, and staff during this unprecedented time. This has enabled us to maintain enrollment since the pandemic began. Upswing has served as a true partner in supporting us to continue supporting our students with achieving their dreams of graduating from college.”

About Upswing

Upswing is an Austin, Texas-based online student engagement organization focused on removing the barriers to degree equity. Learn more about Upswing at https://upswing.io/

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