Success Center - IM

Instant messaging expands

The JCCC Student Success Center has one more tool in its communication toolbox: first there was the telephone, then email and now it’s instant messaging.

The center handles most “front-end” questions about the college, including key areas like admissions, enrollment, records and financial aid, said Elissa Bright, lead student development specialist.

These essential functions at a large college like JCCC can be a bit confusing, Bright said. The success center needs to offer many different types of communication to best answer those questions and achieve positive results.

The system works similarly to any instant messaging tool found on the Internet. Anyone with Internet access can ask a question of a trained employee by typing a question into the peach-colored box on the page.

Within moments, an answer “appears” on the screen, depending on the complexity of the question. Questions are answered between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. by one of 19 success center employees. Each employee takes a one-hour shift at a time.

“That’s the real benefit of this system,” Bright said. “Instant feedback. With email, we try to respond within one to two business days, but if it’s a basic question, that may seem like a long time.”

Calling on the phone may provide quick feedback, too, but some people are worried about being put on hold, Bright said. For them, instant messaging provides another avenue for answers.

The instant messaging system is powered by a freeware program called Meebo already used on campus. The Billington Library and the counseling center have adopted Meebo to answer quick questions. Results have been good there, Bright said, so it was natural to expand to the success center as well.

The system cannot authenticate the identity of the user, however, so no confidential information can be shared using instant messaging. That means workers cannot look up a student’s records or answer specific questions affecting a student’s confidentiality.

Bright said plans are in the works to include an IM box in the credit class search so potential students can ask questions while they search.

She doesn’t anticipate that the messaging will lighten the load for employees staffing the podiums in the success center’s office (second floor, Student Center). People will still seek out the success center in person, she said, but the IM function gives them yet another way to get the information they need.