Home Website Lends an Ear to Student Woes – Then Reports Trends to Schools

Website Lends an Ear to Student Woes – Then Reports Trends to Schools

Heidi Allstop was a Junior year psychology student when she launched her online business Student Spill, a website where students can anonymously submit descriptions of their personal problems and receive responses within 24 hours from trained student supporters.

Now available on 10 campuses around the United States, Student Spill provides a simple method of offering support and of gathering information about what kinds of support a school’s students really need. “Usually universities are wrong in their assumptions,” Allstop says. “They have no way to get insight into what is bothering students, to know what students are crying on their pillows about.” Spill-using schools can leverage the data the service provides for student retention, risk mitigation, suicide prevention and to develop recommendations for services they should consider. It’s an excellent example of value created through analysis of aggregate social app user data.

Above: One school’s report for one semester.

Allstop says that sales to schools are led by students who discover the service and ask that schools budget to engage it. Users are required to have an .edu email adress and their “spills” are responded to by student volunteers. Those volunteers are trained in effective listening and writing empathetic responses. Four to six volunteers send a response to each Spill. “This gets the student supporters more engaged,” Allstop says, “and offers multiple perspectives for the Spiller to deal with their problem.

Allstop’s alma mater, sees the heaviest use – generally between 6 and 12 spills submitted per day. That seems very small by general interest consumer web standards, but as Allstop says that makes schools happy. “If you’re changing 6 to 12 peoples’ lives a day, that’s all it takes,” she says.

Spill tells schools how their students’ lives compare to the lives of students at other schools and Allstop says she thinks those analytics will become all the more valuable as her service scales. She hopes to move into corporate and other markets as well.

“Fifteen to twenty percent of students feel comfortable enough with a counselor to seek out that kind of help,” Allstop says. “Schools are getting all their data from that small group. 82% of Student Spill’s users indicated embarrassment or fear as the number one factor that had prevented them from utilizing campus counseling facilities in the past.” Allstop argues that her service is a non-threatening way to gather more representative data about actual student concerns, while also providing direct support to students in distress.

That model of service-based analytics being used to power recommendations to institutions is likely to become far more common in the future.

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