Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Just tell me what's going on!

Interesting article in the Washington Post about how universities are struggling to keep in contact with their students. Even though they all have mobile phones and laptops, and obsessively check their email, getting important messages out there to all students (the example given is one from Virginia Tech, where there was a gunman loose on campus and they wanted to tell students to keep inside!) is incredibly difficult. When you've got to filter through crap emails from everyone from the careers centre to student admin on a regular basis, it's pretty easy for actually important information to slip through unnoticed.

My uni had an emergency of its own last week, and I must say was absolutely woeful in keeping everyone updated. Because I'm on the staff list I got an email telling me the campus was closed at 10.45am, but they didn't send out a similar one to students until 4.28pm! Information was posted throughout the day on the billboard, but it was pretty fragmentary and useless. Announcements went out on local radio, but how many uni students actually listen to local commercial radio every morning? If your house wasn't really affected by the storm (like ours) you wouldn't think to listen obsessively to see whether uni was open or not; just wouldn't cross your mind. The only reason that we listened was that one of our housemates had tried to go to the gym early in the morning and had run into just a few problems (i.e. flooding and ice!).

I get that it was a pretty unique situation, and understandably there were some computing issues on campus at the time that made getting in contact with people a bit difficult. But really, these are the kinds of situations where you need procedures like that to work the best.

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