Our Story

In 2010, Tim McKay (Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics, Astronomy, Education) learned that Vic Strecher (Founder of the Center for Health Communications Research and Professor of Public Health) had a solution to his problem. Tim needed a scalable, individualized way to reach and support students in a large introductory physics course. Vic and the Center for Health Communications Research had the software tool he needed: the Michigan Tailoring System. A short number of months and one grant award later, ECoach was born. Since then, ECoach has delivered thousands of tailored messages to tens of thousands of students at the University of Michigan and has recently grown to supporting students all over the world.

Our Collaborators

Our work has been featured in


The idea for ECoach is born.
McKay, Gerdes, and Evrard’s ‘Better-Than-Expected’ project emphasizes the importance of tailoring, and student behavior for success.
ECoach receives funding from the Next Generation Learning Challenge, supported by the Gates Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation.
First ECoach team members work with the Center for Health Communication Research (the birthplace of the Michigan Tailoring System) to learn MTS and to build ECoach’s first website and tailored content.
First courses launch at U-M: Physics 135, 235, 140, and 240.
New courses launch: CHEM 130, MCDB 310, and STATS 250.
Additional funding comes from an Exploring Learning Analytics grant and an NSF grant.
ECoach is modernized.
  • ECoach outgrows its staff and infrastructure. McKay and what would become the Center for Academic Innovation start the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) with $2.4 million from the U-M Third Century Initiative.
  • DIG transforms and modernizes ECoach’s connections to MTS, Canvas, and the Data Warehouse.
Courses using the rebuilt ECoach: STATS 250, EECS 183, and Honors Program.
DIG hires full-time staff to manage ECoach's content strategy and user experience.
An NSF grant allows us to focus on building interventions that mitigate stereotype threat in STEM courses.
By Fall, ECoach is in 5 courses: CHEM 130, EECS 183, EECS 280, ENGR 101, and STATS 250
UC-Santa Barbara adopts ECoach.
We build and test stereotype threat interventions, leaderboards, commitment devices, nudges, and more.
ECoach expands to 8 courses: now adding Biology 171, Econ 101, and Physics 140.
Tim McKay is awarded a large Sloan Foundation grant (SEISMIC), and begins exploring how to provide access to ECoach to more institutions across the country.
Patricia Chen at the National University of Singapore is awarded a grant to offer ECoach to pre-college learners.
U-M's Sweetland Center for Writing offers ECoach to help PhD students starting work on their dissertations.
ECoach expands to 9 courses with the addition of Math 105.
The ECoach team begins training collaborators to use MTS and ECoach.
University of Pittsburgh adopts ECoach.
Michigan College Advising Corps offers ECoach to support high school juniors applying to college.
University of Minnesota adopts ECoach.
Penn State University adopts ECoach.

Our Team

Current Contributors

  • Tim McKay
    ECoach Founder
  • Holly Derry
    Behavioral Science Lead
  • Ben Hayward
    Development Lead
  • Kristen Greco
    Design Lead
  • Anna Feeny
    Content Manager
  • Kate Barr
    Behavioral Scientist
  • Caroline Carter
    Behavioral Scientist
  • Macy Morrow
    User Experience Designer
  • Meg Erlewine
    User Experience Designer
  • Nas Mahomed
    Software Developer
  • Mathew Jacqmin-Kramer
    Software Developer
  • Michael Skib
    Quality Assurance Analyst
  • Cait Hayward
    Research Enabler

Former Contributors

  • Jenny Ye
  • Xuenan Xu
  • Carly Thanhouser
  • Ke Yu
  • Erik Barroso
  • Kyle Schulz
  • Sundeep Nagumalli
  • Kushank Raghav
  • Vic Strecher
  • Jared Tritz
  • Kate Miller
  • Madeline Huberth
  • Patricia Chen
  • Jaee Apte
  • Wake Coulter
  • Jessa Bartley-Matthews
  • Marisa Xheka
  • Heidi Wong
  • Michael Brown
  • Matt Demonbrun
  • Yingzhi Liang
  • Yan Chen
  • Stephanie Yen
  • Nita Kedharnath
  • Meghan Oster
  • Meg Duffy
  • Morgan Rondelli
  • Nia Dowell
  • Tom Finzell
  • George Perrett
  • Ben Koester
  • Kevin Zheng
  • Xi Li
  • Mengdan Yuan
  • Brandon Punturo
  • Tania Zaragoza
  • Kylie Wojciechowski
  • Molly Maher
  • Joy Huang

Tailoring is a powerful communication strategy.

  • Tailoring grabs attention. It can impact both the likelihood someone will process the message and how long they engage.
  • Tailoring triggers elaboration and central, effortful processing, which can lead to deeper, more persistent persuasion.
  • Tailoring encourages self-referential thinking. This may help readers identify discrepancies between their actual and ideal behaviors, laying the groundwork to build motivation toward behavior change.

Read more: Understanding tailoring in communicating about health

How ECoach uses tailoring

  • ECoach can tailor who sees what content — entire documents, images, to do items, paragraphs, testimonials, paragraphs, sentences, or even individual words.
  • Using the power of MTS, ECoach can tailor on anything we know about a student — their backgrounds, previous experience, motivations, grades, psychosocial characteristics, or behaviors that are important to their success.