An Investigation of How Undergraduate Students Manage the Email They Received from University

Jin Kang, Joseph Konstan, Department of Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN 55455

University email is a crucial bridge for communication and information exchange between the university and students. Undergraduate inboxes are filled with various messages from their university. From department events and activity announcements to university store promotions to course updates from professors and teaching assistants. How many and which of these emails catch undergraduates’ attention and get read by these busy students? This research involves an interview study of undergraduates in which we review their inboxes and their strategies for handling university email messages. We based our research design on Kong and Konstan (2020) work, which studied the effectiveness of U of M bulk email to employees using a combination of inbox review interviews, surveys, and interviews with senders. They found recipients only remembered about 38% of messages received, but they also reported “remembering” 16% of fake messages, so the overall average effectiveness was only 22%. We conducted eighteen Zoom interviews with U of M undergraduates to understand how they receive and manage university email. We looked at how many university messages and specifically bulk messages undergraduates received in the past month; observed which of these they had opened, deleted, or left in the inbox; and asked about email reading strategies and perceived email workload. Initial results show that messages from professors, TAs, academic advisors, or managers are read immediately. In contrast, messages from student organizations, university departments, or university leaders are quickly filtered based on the subject line and maybe skimmed or skipped. These results suggest that students set priorities when reading email and that mass email may not be effective at reaching students. We also found that students tend to receive notifications of new emails, star emails to highlight ones they want to check later, and use the search function to find their old email.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Jin Kang

Institution: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Type: Oral

Subject: Computer Science

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Oral 8
Date/Time: Tue 5:00pm-6:00pm
Session Number: 814
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