Using Trigger That Instant Messaging to Improve Stakeholder Communications

Using Trigger That Instant Messaging to Improve Stakeholder Communications

Joan Richardson (RMIT University, Australia) and Brian Corbitt (RMIT University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/jcit.2010100101

Abstract

This case describes the key issues when an instant messaging prototype called TriggerThat was piloted and reviewed in a university environment. Short Messaging Service (SMS) was a popular technology amongst students and had previously been used in the university sector to push information to students (McCrindle 2006). This prototype and pilot conducted provided a more flexible use of SMS technology, enabling two-way push-pull SMS information transfer between academics and students. The push facility was used by academics to send assessment reminders, marks and alerts to their classes. Students were given the option of registering into TriggerThat to enable receipt of SMS reminders for information available on the university intranet. Surveys and focus groups were used to provide a comprehensive description of student uptake and usage of the technology. Review data and project documentation was used to create models to predict uptake and usage costs. Through the use of role plays in focus groups, which included all stakeholders, upgrades to system features, such as trigger words, were recommended. This case describes the experience of piloting SMS in the university setting and includes the functionality and tested trigger words used.
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Setting The Stage

Students at the University regularly blamed the difficulty in finding information on the Web for their use of direct contact with academics via email and phone messages. Academics complained that they had sometimes spent entire work days answering or ignoring trivial email and could not locate simple information, such as timetables, on the Web. The organization of information on the Web was not the only issue raised; the need for an internet connection to access information was problematic for a large number of students whose access was restricted to the heavily utilized University provided workstations. A separate project was underway to streamline administrative service information available to students on the Web. This student e-portal development team included representation from the TriggerThat project and was considering embedding SMS functionality.

Students placing phone calls to academics was also problematic as both parties had to be available and free to talk at the same time, otherwise messages had to be left, which often resulted in return voicemail messages rather than a personal conversation. Academics did send messages to groups of students using the University’s group email functionality and the announcement feature of the DLS. The DLS enabled student access to learning resources provided by academics online. However this required students’ to access the Internet. For students to have any-time, any-place Internet access to these messages they needed mobile computers or phones. SMS messages suggested a way of addressing these inefficiencies. Communication from academics using a Web interface to students’ phones appeared to be a suitable alternative to student-to-phone or teacher-to-phone or DLS-to-student or email-to-phone-or-computer. Messages not immediately received are stored. Mobile phone ownership amongst the student population was high and they are a cheap ubiquitous technology. Student ownership of the mobile phone meant that SMS reminders and assessment feedback were private and fast (Stone, 2004). Both staff and students could expect messages to be transmitted and responded to without the necessity for a face-to-face interaction. The ability of mobile services to free people from committing to physical presence and commitment to a pre-determined schedule, in order to be accessible to one another, was seen as an advantage (McClatchey, 2006).

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