How Babson College made their Summer Study program virtual — one text at a time.
Babson College is the global leader in entrepreneurship education, and has been ranked #1 for 23 years in a row.
At Babson College, entrepreneurship drives curriculum, faculty and students alike. To find those that thrive in such a focused environment, Babson begins recruiting students as early as their junior year of high school through a specialized program: Introduction to the Entrepreneurial Experience.
Most years, this summer program is an action-packed month of hands-on learning, giving students a taste of life at Babson. This year, COVID-19 forced Babson to completely rethink the experience.
Everything was working really well, and then COVID hit. We basically said, ‘...we have to do this online or not at all.'
A global challenge
Jonathan Sims, faculty coordinator for the program, quickly realized that going virtual would be no easy feat. In a typical year, Sims would recruit 20 different faculty members to teach separate segments throughout the month. When students around the world signed up for the virtual experience, this diverse curriculum approach demanded faculty to be on Zoom from 8 am to midnight.
With his faculty exhausted, Sims searched for a new way to overcome timezone barriers and create a coherent virtual experience for these students.
We actually had to come to people when they were. And Arist, because it’s asynchronous, worked perfectly for that.
The perfect virtual experience
Sims turned to Arist to provide curriculum reinforcement through daily text messages to each summer program student. By designing a brand new SMS course, professors were able to deliver content that went hand in hand with each day’s Zoom lecture.
Arist sent messages according to each student’s preference, teaching around the world as well as around the clock. But the benefit went beyond alleviating a little bit of manpower. Rather than getting trapped in a Zoom-trance, students engaged daily with new information, all through the comfort of their phone.
To be able to use a phone, which is usually a problem, in a way that enhances the educational experience and enhances the job that we do is very, very cool.
Through Arist, Sims and his colleagues were able to teach entrepreneurship to 148 students, spanning 21 countries and 14 timezones.
With the successful rollout of their SMS course, Babson crossed into brand new territory: higher education powered by text messaging. Rather than allowing technology to be a distraction, professors were able to experience a new level of daily connection to their students.
Now, Babson is laying the groundwork for a more extensive Arist integration in the coming year. For professors like Sims, this will mean more than just a few text messages. “It’s rethinking how we use the phone to teach.”