Text message intervention for student engagement

Last registered on February 26, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Text message intervention for student engagement
Initial registration date
February 25, 2021

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
February 26, 2021, 12:53 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

University of Michigan

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Michigan

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
The 2020-21 school year is a challenging one for college students. Many students may be struggling to stay engaged and on top of their coursework in a mostly remote setting, especially those who have less experience navigating college. Even in more conventional academic settings, students often struggle with time management and fail to take advantage of course resources. Prior research has shown that nudge interventions delivered as text messages can improve student outcomes, particularly when they target concrete tasks, are time-sensitive, and are relevant for the particular student (Page, Lee, & Gelbach 2020). This project is a nudge intervention that will send strategic, tailored text messages to undergraduate students in a large introductory economics course. The intervention will take place in the context of fully remote/virtual course instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The messages will be customized to the structure of the course and to students' observed behavior such as attendance, performance, and engagement. We will use administrative data to examine whether the messages improve students' engagement with and performance in the course.

External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Burland, Elizabeth and Stephanie Owen. 2021. "Text message intervention for student engagement." AEA RCT Registry. February 26. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.7231-1.0
Experimental Details


The intervention consists of strategic, tailored text messages to students, sent throughout the semester. The messages will remind students of key deadlines and benchmarks and direct them to class resources. The timing of these messages will align with the schedule of the course, and they will be tailored to students’ observed behavior. For example, students who have turned in an assignment may receive a different message than those who did not, or students may receive different messages based on their class performance.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Academic performance in course; course participation and attendance; engagement with course resources (office hour attendance, posting to course discussion forum)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
All students in the course (N = approx. 370) will be eligible to participate. Students who consent to participate will be randomized into treatment or control using individual level stratified randomization. Strata will be defined by student level (first year vs. sophomore, junior, or senior), gender (male vs. female) and parental education (first-generation college student vs. college-educated parent). Within each of the 8 strata, students will be assigned to treatment or control with equal probability.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
The sample size will depend on how many students consent to participate. The maximum number of observations is 370 students (the total enrollment of the course). The design is not clustered.
Sample size: planned number of observations
The sample size will depend on how many students consent to participate. The maximum number of observations is 370 students (the total enrollment of the course).
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
The sample size will depend on how many students consent to participate. Among those consenting, half will be assigned to treatment and half to control.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of Michigan Health Sciences and Behavioral Sciences Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number