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Emilia Kuuskoski

27.02.20234 minTips

Tips for supporting a large number of students with a SMS bot

Annie will be three years old this autumn, and we have been collaborating with education providers on improving student well-being for several years now. Annie’s primary objective has always been to simplify the process of asking for help in order to make studying easier. As a result, various student support phenomena have emerged over time. So far, over 17,000 students have received support messages from Annie, and the outcomes have demonstrated that our solutions has streamlined the support system, decreasing the risk of dropout (We plan to write a blog post on this topic in the spring).

For instance, at Vantaa Vocational College Varia, we have reached out to almost 6,000 students in two years. Over these two years, our support message coverage has expanded from a few hundred to more than 3,000 students, and the number of staff members involved has grown from a few dozen to nearly 300. We have tried several approaches at Varia to enhance our service, and some have become established solutions:

Spread the support messages over time

Initially, Annie’s support messages were sent to all participating students simultaneously. However, nowadays the messages are spread out over four weeks to more evenly distribute the demand for services, such as student support. Most educational institutions plan the delivery of support through Annie messages by targeting specific groups of students based on their situation or the calendar year. For instance, new students, students on work placements, soon-to-graduate students, and graduates receive their own customized messages.

Speak the language of the student

During the Varia pilot, support messages were only sent in Finnish. However, now messages are also available in plain Finnish for S2 students and in English for those studying degrees taught in English. To better match the spoken language of students, we have sent messages in numerous languages across five countries.

Give educators the big picture

Teachers were given a specialized view that allows them to see their group’s response status at a glance. This provides them with a quick and comprehensive overview of their students, which can be used for various purposes eg. communication. By making it easier for them to monitor their students’ response status, this feature enhances the support provided to students.


Graph of the most common support needs in Annie data

Breakdown of requests by support subject from 2021 to 2023.


After sending a support message, students’ responses tend to follow a pattern, irrespective of their level of education or other factors:

Text messages reach almost all students

Annie’s messages are typically sent via SMS, which means that students don’t need to log in or download an app to receive them. Since the institutions usually have up-to-date phone numbers for their students, the messages can reach a large number of students. On average, we are able to reach 97% of our intended recipients.

Response rate can be as high as 90%

Typically, in a pilot group of a few hundred students, almost nine out of ten students respond to Annie’s support message. When including all ongoing support messages, seven out of ten students respond. Sending a reminder message has been shown to increase the response rate.

Around one in ten need support

The initial Annie messages often generate a higher number of support requests from students, but the numbers even out in subsequent messages. On average, around one in ten students request support after receiving an Annie message. By sending messages at regular intervals, institutions can better prepare for any arising support requests.

Support is needed not only for studies but also for well-being and other issues

Support is essential not just for academic success, but also for the overall well-being of students. While many students request support for studying and planning their academic pursuits, a significant number also seek help for well-being concerns, including mental and physical health, as well as motivation. Other issues, such as financial aid and assistance with applications, are also commonly requested forms of support.

Successful solutions often arise from experimentation. By periodically discussing the results and experiences of our cooperation with institutions, we ensure that both the professionals supporting the students and the students themselves feel heard and their daily lives become easier. Trying out different solutions can reinforce this approach and ensure that everyone involved benefits from a collaborative effort.

Emilia Kuuskoski

Emilia Kuuskoski is a social psychologist who specializes in helping education providers enhance their support services. With years of experience in customer experience and its continuous improvement, Emilia helps education providers to succeed in developing their support offerings.

About Annie

In a nutshell, Annie sends a message to students to check if everything is okay or if they need support or guidance on something. Requests are automatically directed to the appropriate people and services, ensuring that students receive the help they need in a timely and effective manner.

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