The first presentation I attended today was entitled “Instant Access: Using Technology to Reach Students.” Despite the grand title and some mentions of multiple technologies, the real content was rather focused. Three ladies in career services at two different institutions, LSU and Florida State University, described how their offices employ Instant Messaging in serving students. Their use of the technology sounded rather simple (but that’s how most things start and the best way to start!) but the process by which they analyzed their options and presented their proposals to their departmental leadership is very interesting and worth examining and possibly replicating.
Other interesting highlights of this presentation and related discussions include:
- Neither institution had pre-existing policies regarding institutional use of IM, despite the fact that one of the institutions already had multiple departments employing IM in official support capacities. Some of the policy-related issues mentioned by the presenters included dealing with inappropriate comments (rude or too personal, including psychological crises), security, and privacy. In addition to the “The Effect of Instant Messaging on the Social Lives of Students Within a College Dorm” article mentioned by the presenters, I can’t resist plugging my 2004 article outlining some policy considerations for student affairs units employing IM.
- When asked about potential security implications, the respondents replied that at one institution the IT help desk uses the same software and the central IT group is unaware of the product at the other institution. An attendee also referred to the “IT security nazis” on her campus. While I’m sure there are some issues with some IT and security groups, I don’t think any student affairs professional would ever accept an IT or other professional referring to the “counseling nazis” or the “FERPA nazis” who religiously protect students’ privacy. Further, I don’t think that many student affairs professionals are adequately qualified to analyze the security of software or systems of software and merely ignoring the issue because “IT doesn’t know about it!” is a very poor way to protect the confidentiality and privacy of our students and staff.
- A question from an attendee about the presenters’ use of “canned responses” was really a question about the use of chat bots, a topic that was very briefly raised in yesterday’s Net Generation pre-conference session. Unfortunately, the topic was not pursued or even fleshed out today.
- Another question from an attendee focused on the logging capabilities of the IM software employed by the presenters. Specifically, he asked if the logs were being analyzed and that analysis used to create FAQs. I would suggest that the logs can not only be used to create FAQs but also answer other questions and provide other useful data but the general idea of mining logs for useful data is an excellent one and another echo of an idea mentioned yesterday. None of the presenters answered in the affirmative but their initiatives are relatively young so they may have simply not gotten to that stage yet.