Pronto: Adding Meaningful Student Engagement Beyond The Classroom

While many of us had a difficult time with the pandemic, we learned the importance of creating community among disparate groups of students who share a course on paper, but who do not have the same classroom experience. As we head back into the fall 2021 semester, we’ll also need to bring students together and foster a sense of belonging after a challenging year.

During the Learn from Anywhere period, we discovered Pronto, an effective tool for creating a sense of community and collaboration in a virtual and traditional classroom settings. With Pronto, we experienced heightened connectivity and an increase in real-time communication with our students.

For example, before the semester starts, we would typically send an email to all students welcoming them to the classroom. This type of communication is one way and doesn’t allow you to engage with students.

With Pronto, the communication experience is completely different. That same one-way email is reimagined as a video welcome message you post, and in turn, your students can create their own welcome videos to share with the whole class via a group chat platform. It’s personal, collaborative, and engaging, and with the phone-based app version, connecting with students is easy and comfortable for all. Technically, the discussion board feature in Blackboard can do the same thing, but Pronto is much easier to navigate, particularly through the app.

The benefits persist well past the early days of a course, as well. If you are like us, and have email inboxes cluttered with student questions, then you’ll appreciate the group chat feature. Students ask a question, and then all students can see the answer, whether that comes from you or even another student. With Pronto’s analytics, you can also see who saw your posted messages, instead of wondering if anyone read your email. Pronto has become a hero in decluttering our inboxes, making us more productive and able to focus on value-added content for classes.

We’ve assembled some tips below to help you get started and succeed with Pronto in the classroom. Once you give it a try, we think you’ll find it intuitive and valuable for enhancing the classroom experience for everyone.

What is Pronto?

Pronto is an easy-to-use communication tool that adds tremendous value to the educational experience by creating community outside the classroom. With Pronto, students, teaching/graduate assistants, and professors can group chat via text and video, and it’s a real-time platform for sharing announcements or other course updates. Pronto is centrally supported by Boston University and is available through Blackboard and smart phone app.

Benefits Of Using Pronto:

Pronto engages students in new ways. Here are several examples of how the technology enhances student engagement:

The Power of Conversation: Casual conversations can take the pressure off of formal “professor” communications through the use of texting, videos, emojis and GIFs.

Video Capabilities: Through the use of video, instructors can send welcome messages with a personal touch. In turn, students send videos introducing themselves. By the time class starts, the ice is already broken.

Streamlines Communication: Pronto reduces multiple emails on the same topics because a student can pose a question in the group chat and everyone sees both the question and the answer.

Supports Study Groups: Through Pronto students can form study groups, send files and private messages, and assign tasks. They can also communicate as a group with the instructor in ways other than email.

Enhances Course Content: Pronto provides a platform for students to share real world examples of course content. This not only enhances the educational experience, but it also connects students in the classroom.

Enhanced Communication Features: Pronto confirms who is seeing your messages. Unlike email, Pronto provides the list of students who saw your message, giving you more confidence your messages are getting through.

Increases Responsiveness: Pronto helps address urgent issues more quickly with the app (such as technical issues during an assessment or questions about a homework assignment).

Ready to Get Started?

Setting up Pronto is straight-forward. This page walks you through Pronto set up step by step. Essentially, you’ll see Pronto on your list of available tools in Blackboard. Open up the course where you want to deploy it, and launch the Pronto tool. If you’ve used Slack or other messaging apps, the interface will feel quite familiar to you. Once you set up Pronto on Blackboard, you can download the app from Google Play or the App Store.

Students seamlessly adapt to Pronto, as they’ve had experience on a wide range of messaging apps. To help set expectations about Pronto’s role in the classroom, definitely talk about it in your syllabus. Then, lead by example and leave a welcome video in the app, asking students to respond with their own video introductions. As you prepare for upcoming assignments, leave instructions via video so students can refer back to it when they are working on it. When students want to meet for a quick catch up outside of office hours, suggest video chatting through Pronto. Periodically post FYI content such as interesting articles or upcoming events.

Want to Learn More?

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About the Authors:

Anne Danehy is Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Master Lecturer in the College of Communication where she teaches Marketing Communication, Political Campaigns and Communication Research. In the summer of 2020, Anne became a Learn from Anywhere faculty coach where she helps faculty integrate technology applications into their classrooms.


Amy Shanler is an Associate Professor of the Practice of Public Relations in the College of Communication and co-directs PRLab. She has been a Learn from Anywhere faculty coach since the summer of 2020 and enjoys piloting new technologies that improve learning outcomes.