Thursday, February 18, 2010

Get Real-Time Updates and Mentions Via Email Using NCCU's Eagle Status

North Carolina Central University
Earlier this week, North Carolina Central University updated its internal microblogging tool, Eagle Status, to include reply and e-mail notifications.

Initially, the status update tool was intended to give both employees and students the ability to notify the campus of what they were doing at the moment. The inspiration for the tool came out of the Human Resources office where they hung a wooden board with updates on employee's status. A common use was to state an employee was at lunch, out of the office, or in a meeting.

Similar to Facebook, status updates decorated user profile pages in the employee directory. This way other users, when searching for phone numbers and e-mail addresses, would know whether or not someone was busy or free.

The idea was a good one but, like so many other ideas, things changed. When the students found out about the tool, they used it to share their thoughts, ask questions, and help other students.

One of the busiest times for the Eagle Status was during our big snow storm last year. Students and employees a like were inquiring about the status of the university and its decision to remain closed.

From an administrative position, the tool is a candid shot into the mood and thoughts of the campus community. Decision-makers can keep an eye on issues, in real time, and take proactive steps to correct them before they get out of hand.

Most recently, Web Services decided to update the tool to include a reply feature that encourages greater interaction. Remember, Eagle Status was not meant to hold discussions, but rather post updates on what the campus was doing. However, after a number of requests and a close eye on the statistics, the team decided to  engage more participants with a reply that e-mails @mentions.

The hope is that through a notification system, more users will make return visits to the NCCU portal, myEOL, and respond to comments and questions in the Eagle Status.

Click image to view
Additional upgrades include an @username button that shows all user mentions. This means that when clicked, I will see a list of comments directed at me or involving me. As a result, I can reply to comments or questions immediately. For users with e-mails attached to mobile phones, messages are available in ones in-box. While replying from an e-mail is not yet available, the team has this idea in the backlog.

At the time of this article, the Eagle Status has nearly 11,000 updates. The team anticipates the number to grow quickly as as the new features are shared amongst the university members. The service, which is available to all internal myEOL users, will soon be rolled out to include alumni and prospective students.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the idea of an internal microblogging tool within a university community. For those institutions already doing something similar, how has it worked out for you? Any ideas you would like to share? Let's talk about these questions in the comment section below.

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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