This is what lazy student communications looks like

06 Jun

Students tell us we send far too many irrelevant and impersonal emails to them each week. I can sympathise.

I see what you did there. You teamed literal coolness with over-used slang to relate to young people

I study a masters degree online with the University of Canberra, Australia (UC). I never read emails from UC, but thought I’d do a little research.

What did I find?

Emails that made me:

  • feel like a number
  • want to unsubscribe (but I can’t)
  • not want to read any emails from my university because it’s all spam, right?
  • go to and leave a negative review
    (okay, this was for academic reasons, but the day-to-day communications pushed me over the edge)

Some standout subject lines include:

“Quit Smoking Seminar”

I’m not a smoker (fact). I never have been (throwing in that line in case mum reads). Is it necessary to send this event out to the entire student body? Of coure not!


First, don’t yell at me. Second, the opening line in this email reads, “Want to know how to survive on a student budget without resorting to 2-minute noodles for every meal?”

I’m not 18. I’m 27. I’m an online, part-time student living in Canada. Thanks for getting to know me.

“2013 ACTPS Graduate Program – Applications Close 5pm Wednesday 23 May”

Wow, an acronym in the subject line! AYSOS?

The email advises me that in this acronym-heavy graduate program, I’ll “be placed in a real job that has real responsibilities” and “it’s a big step towards a career”.

I’m not about to graduate from a bachelor degree and if I was, I still wouldn’t appreciate you talking to me like I’m in high school.

“S1 2013 Study Abroad – Internationalise your Degree!”

By clicking on the “eligibility” link in the much-too-long email, the first two criteria jump out immediately. I must first be enrolled full-time and I must be an ungerdgraduate. Nope and nope.

“Are you wondering why is there a Cow walking around the campus? – sent by the Careers Service”

Curious? So was I, but the email was a total letdown.

Are you or someone close to you doing this to your students? Here’s my one-time offer. I’m about to give you, for free, the secret sauce to communicating to any audience.

It’s called “put yourself in your audience’s shoes”.

  • Treat students like the adults they are
  • Don’t mass email your student body for every, single, irrelevant event, service or program
  • Customise and personalise your emails

If you refuse to improve your email communications, allow students to opt out. And when they do, take it as feedback.

Only a handful of people should have access to the “all students” email list. When approached by Childcare Services to email a survey out to all students, that handfull should be asking “why?” (or simply saying “no” because that’s just a silly request).


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2 responses to “This is what lazy student communications looks like

  1. Katra

    June 13, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Great piece Michelle! These emails feel like someone/s is always knocking on your door and you can’t stop them.

    Subject lines and segmentation are key to email communications as they lead to better targeted communications.

    Enjoyed it!

    • pocketfullofchelle

      June 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      Hi Katra

      Very true! I can ignore vacuum salespeople knocking on my door, just like I can choose to ignore spammy emails (at the risk of missing something crucial, unfortunately).

      I did think I’d missed something crucial not long ago. I received an urgent letter in the mail telling me my student services fee was overdue and to pay immediately. I checked my student email account and there you go, I had a few emails warning me of the upcoming fee deadline, then one telling me I’d missed it.

      I logged into the student portal to pay my fee and the charge didn’t show up in my invoice. I emailed the student centre and after A LOT of frustrating back and forth, was told that because I’m living overseas, I don’t have to pay the fee.

      Incredible. If UC only had a brain … I mean CRM


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