Increased Student Privacy & Improved Communication at UAA
- A Savance EIOBoard Client Case Study
"Our management was especially impressed with the ability to request custom features for an extremely modest cost."
Jerry Tibor, University of Alaska Anchorage
The University of Alaska at Anchorage (UAA) is the state's largest postsecondary education institute with almost 18,000 students and over 150 major study areas. UAA offers graduate, undergraduate, and associate degrees plus certifications and occupational endorsements. UAA is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. UAA's Student Services office is where students go to handle the administrative tasks of enrollment, financial aid assistance, advisors, and other administrative tasks. With a staff of over 150 employees, the Student Services office seeks to make the student experience as efficient as possible, by offering one-stop service for students that seek assistance.
In 2003, Jerry Tibor, LAN Manager at UAA, needed to find a better way to communicate within his department. The Student Services department depended on instant messaging (IM) to collaborate when assisting students. However, recent legislation required that Tibor reevaluate the university's IM carriers for student privacy reasons. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulates how student information is disseminated. The information sent via instant messaging fell under this authority. The IM carriers could not guarantee the confidentiality of the information transmitted using its service. For this reason, Tibor needed a way to guarantee students' privacy without hindering the collaborative benefits instant messaging provided.
At the same time, the Student Services department was also seeking a new way to track the in-office status of employees. Currently, the Student Services office utilized an internally-developed application that resembled a magnetic in/out board. Employees would sign themselves in, so that the rest of the office could see that they were available to answer questions. When they left office, they would sign themselves out. However, while the application was useful, it was difficult to modify without the assistance of the student that created it. Tibor wanted a commercially-developed system that could replace this application in order to make technical support more accessible.
Jerry Tibor searched for six months, hoping to find an application that could both provide instant messaging that complied with FERPA, and also replace their internally-developed in/out application. The IM need was primary, and a new in/out application was secondary, although almost as important. Finally, Tibor found Savance online. Savance's EIOBoard Staff Tracking is an electronic in/out board software solution that performed the same functions as the internally developed in/out status application. EIOBoard also offered instant messaging, along with many other features that made the product attractive to Tibor and the Student Service department at the University of Alaska. "Our management was especially impressed with the ability to request custom features for an extremely modest cost," said Tibor.
"EIOBoard is the primary resource for those [one-stop] workers to get answers for students that come in."
When a student visits the Student Services office, he or she may need help from different areas within the department. The student may, for example, need to check the status of financial aid, drop a class, or ask about transferring credits from another college. Like other universities, the University of Alaska Anchorage uses a "one-stop" model for helping students with multiple questions. This is where EIOBoard comes in handy.
The Student Services office employs 10-12 students that are broadly trained in all areas of the office, so that they can answer general questions. Additionally, their desktop computers are supplied with the EIOBoard Staff Tracking software, so that one-stop employees can access any one of the specialists immediately for in-depth questions. For example, if a student comes in with an in-depth issue regarding how to earn college credits with a summer job, the one-stop employee can can help the student by electronically chatting with a specialist, asking pertinent questions, and providing the necessary paperwork. All student information can also be shared over EIOBoard instant messaging, because it is completely secure and complies with FERPA. In the rare instance that the student's issue is more complicated than the one-stop employee can handle, he or she can use EIOBoard to find an available specialist, so that the student does not have to wait. Tibor notes that "EIOBoard is the primary resource for those [one-stop] workers to get answers for students that come in."
"[One-stop workers] may answer thousands of calls a day and they can get the information they need right from the EIOBoard chat window."
EIOBoard is also the primary resource for handling phone calls and collaborating with remote employees. "[One-stop workers] may answer thousands of calls a day and they can get the information they need right from the EIOBoard chat window," Tibor explains. Many find the Outlook Add-On particularly helpful, as it allows them to schedule meetings that will show in the EIOBoard system, as well as access EIOBoard right from their email program. "We also use it just to see who's available," said Tibor. "When we need to talk with someone, we'll check the EIOBoard before getting up and walking to their office."
Additionally, some remote employees find EIOBoard helpful for collaborating. The solution enables several staff members to work from home, something that was not possible before. One employee works out of Georgia, and depends primarily on EIOBoard to answer questions and collaborate with employees.
Great Support from Savance
Implementation was smooth and the new product required little employee buy-in, and because employees were already using applications with similar functions to the EIOBoard, employees were happy to use something professionally-developed without having to worry about violating student confidentiality. "We only had a few minor issues since implementation, like once the chat window would keep popping up after a user had closed it out because someone else would respond," Tibor said. "But Savance is great about addressing issues. One of the best features has been the support. They are extremely knowledgeable, are always right on top of our requests, and are great about responding in a very timely manner. It is one of the few tech support experiences I don't dread."
Tibor notes that the University of Alaska Anchorage is very pleased with EIOBoard and will recommend it to others. Since the initial implementation, other departments have signed on and the University's number of user licenses has doubled. Speaking of all the people that have installed the EIOBoard, Tibor says: "I don't know of anybody that doesn't use it."