How to Align Technology and Risk Management to Optimize Study Abroad Safety and Duty of Care

Whether it’s theft, terrorism, disease, or even weather – global risks have many institutions wondering how to implement or adapt a formal traveler protection strategy. However, when students are spread across the globe, maintaining a level of proactive and continuous oversight can be challenging without the right tools and technology in place. In this blog, we’re catching up with Kevin McDonald, COO of our friends over at KeynectUp, to demystify this process so higher education administrators can understand the types of tools and services available for not only better protecting their students—but also the interests of their international programs and institutions.

On Call: What are some actionable ways higher education administrators can use technology and risk management to optimize their institution’s duty of care strategy?
KeynectUp: Given Gen Z’s favoritism towards smartphones and mobile tech, it is integral to deliver their risk management tools where students already are: on their phones. 98% of Gen Z already own a smartphone and prefer using it for their online surfing and interactions. It is clear that for this current college-aged generation, it is easiest to get their attention via the smartphone. By placing emergency contacts in an easy-to-access location on your students’ phones, you are making it easier for students to utilize these important resources.

On Call: At first glance, some may automatically assume the best way to go about placing emergency contacts on students’ phones is through a mobile app. Can you explain how KeynectUp has found this is *not* the case?
KeynectUp: Absolutely! Yes…many people assume that apps are the perfect solution for communicating with students. However, we’ve found that Gen Z is selective about what they download to their smartphones. Many have chosen not to engage with mobile apps offered by their institutions; we’ve seen collegiate app deployment rates as low as 7%. Therefore, we find it is essential to embrace a simpler, more effective mechanism to improve student safety.

On Call: Very interesting how things are always changing. What is a more effective mechanism to improve student safety?
KeynectUp: You actually wouldn’t believe how incredibly simple it is for institutions to put themselves in a stronger position to display their commitment to duty of care by giving their students access to life-saving information without downloading any type of app. For example, in the case of the On Call/KeynectUp solution, by means of a simple text message, the traveler receives a link to download contact information for On Call’s 24/7 Global Response Center and other customized program details. With one click, this contact information is properly formatted and stored right in the traveler’s phone for easy and seamless access.

On Call: It’s amazing how simple, but yet effective this approach is for our clients! Do you think this helps higher education admins ensure students feel confident in utilizing these resources during a crisis?
KeynectUp: Yes, absolutely – this simple approach to information sharing significantly increases traveler awareness and adoption of emergency response resources by using a technology that is both familiar and preferred rather than the traditional alternative of carrying a hard copy of a membership card. Why? One reason is that for many study abroad students, travel assistance and risk management are foreign concepts—having these vital emergency contacts immediately accessible in their phones is, hands-down, the best way to make sure they know how to get in touch with someone if they need help…whether it’s a lost passport, a broken leg, or even a turbulent political situation in a remote location. Since students always carry their phones on them, by utilizing this simple means of technology, they can rest assured that access to emergency support is only a few taps away.

On Call: Absolutely! Do you have any final tips for institutions looking to implement crisis communication channels amongst their study abroad students?
KeynectUp: When choosing a communication tool, it’s important to consider which has the lowest impact on students’ cellular data and battery usage. Cellular data is finite on most students’ phone plans, so students will be conscious about what they choose to spend their precious data. This means, as mentioned earlier, that many students will opt out of downloading apps, many of which drain data quickly due to their location-tracking capabilities. An alternative is an SMS or email-based communication platform where little to no data is required for students to communicate. Students show less resistance to these types of communications due to their low impact on phone data and battery. Once you’ve decided on a communication tool, make sure all students are aware of it and know what it will look like. This helps prepare them if they ever need to utilize a crisis communication channel.

For more information on how the On Call and KeynectUp study abroad technology solutions can help amplify (and simplify!) your institution’s risk management initiatives, contact us today.