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How to improve and streamline your campus messaging and notifications

Two Oklahoma universities use Rave Campus Messenger from AT&T to reach out and touch students on mobile devices
University Business, July/August 2012
When it comes to notifying your students, faculty, and staff about important campus issues and events, you can’t rely on just texting or email. Effective notification platforms also use voice recordings, Facebook and Twitter posts, RSS feeds, and digital signage. But how do you implement a single, centralized notification system that offers connectivity and control of all these communication channels? In this University Business web seminar, which was originally broadcast on May 10, 2012, Oklahoma Christian University and Oklahoma Baptist University show how Rave Campus Messenger from AT&T helped improve and streamline their notification systems.

Christopher Lusey
Mobility Application Consultant 

Schools are communication challenged when it comes to reaching students. One of the reasons for that is that students are a difficult demographic to communicate with. Students predominantly use text messaging, Twitter, and Facebook as their preferred communication methods, and those platforms do not normally integrate with the Student Information Systems (SIS) in use on campuses today.
On top of that, major communications investments of the past have run their course. Students continue, however, to bring their own tools with them. Most universities have looked to application partners. 
Solutions also need to meet certain criteria such as mass notification in the event of an emergency. They must be cost effective and widely available, and easy to integrate into existing systems. 
To better address the needs of higher education customers, AT&T teams focus on how to leverage mobility on campus. There are systems and infrastructures you have purchased and built up, and our focus is to help you leverage those investments by integrating with mobile communications. 

John Hermes
Vice President 
for Information Technology
Oklahoma Christian University

Oklahoma Christian University is located in Oklahoma City and has about 2,200 students, most of whom live on campus. Historically, we communicated primarily through email and a web ite.
After 2007, we knew we needed to add a multi-mode solution that incorporated email, SMS, Twitter, and Facebook. We implemented an interim solution, but in 2011 we moved to Rave Campus Messenger to add new features such as RSS and Blackboard integration. 
We needed a system that was integrated with our SIS, offered single sign-on, and provided data reporting capabilities. Because students and staff could have different carriers, we had no way of knowing if messages were being delivered and no way of managing the delays we experienced with some carriers, which were not getting messages out for 30-40 minutes.
Some of the critical elements we needed in a new system were:
  • Single sign-on.
  • Integration with Active Directory and SIS.
  • A hosted solution with branding capabilities.
  • The ability to have pre-written messages.
  • Role management so it could be used for multiple purposes and by different admins communicating with different groups.
  • Reporting capabilities, so we could track messages, who received them, when they were delivered, etc.
The ability to group students by a number of factors, including residence, so we could target messages to a specific group, was key.
The Rave Campus Messenger implementation took less than a week. Student information was populated via our our Student Information System. 
When we added this solution, we changed our policy from opt-in to opt-out. Students were automatically enrolled for emergency communication and they could choose to opt in to other communications. Students could also choose to receive messages directly from Blackboard. 
In addition we added Eyewitness, which is a way for students to anonymously submit information to campus police or campus maintenance. 
After two semesters, we have met all the objectives we set. We have 2,497 users and 92 percent have a registered mobile contact. Our primary use has been emergency communication. About 20 percent are using the Blackboard communication tool and there is a continual interest in the Groups option. As this area grows, it could expand to student organizations that see opportunities to use the tool more broadly to communicate with their members.

Gary Nickerson
Assistant Vice President for Business Affairs, 
Information Systems and Services
Oklahoma Baptist University

Several years ago, we decided we needed to make significant changes to our homegrown communication system. 
We had several problems we wanted to fix:
  • Inconsistent message delivery speeds.
  • No reporting capabilities.
  • Limited communication abilities that were originally set up to be only for emergencies.
We are a small school with about 2,200 students with a small staff and a small budget. We needed something we could implement fast and relatively easily.
But even though we wanted a cost-effective solution, we still wanted it to be full featured. We wanted a new system to integrate with our SIS, which is Banner; to be automated as much as possible; and to enable students to manage their own data and update their own accounts.
We read reviews, talked to other schools and developed a list of potential solutions. We knew about Rave, but we didn’t think we could afford it. We were working with AT&T on another project and began discussing Rave with them. Surprisingly, we found that it would be a possibility for us. As we evaluated the features and price point of their solution, it became an easy choice. . 
Setup was really simple. We worked with a configuration expert—starting with a questionnaire that we answered during a phone call. He took our answers and within 48 hours he had configured the system and we were testing. From contract to live date was under two weeks. 
Our biggest challenge was extracting information from Banner to populate Rave. We developed specific queries and set up an automated transfer of a CSV file to Rave. 
Some lessons we learned and addressed included:
  • Adding residency information for students.
  • Adding student grade level will be added for more targeted messages.
  • The importance of data consistency to avoid duplicate record creation.
We were very pleased with the fast, easy implementation. Total staff time required to set Rave Campus Messenger up was probably less than 10 hours. We are able to accurately report on delivery rates and success. We have a comfortable feeling knowing that our students are getting critical messages.
During a tornado warning just a few months ago, we were able to see that 95 percent of our emergency messages had been delivered in less than three minutes. 
We like that we can set up common alerts. There’s no time during an emergency to compose a message. 
It’s an ongoing challenge to get students to register their cell phone numbers. I also want to make sure that parents are aware we have this and that they are included on the students’ accounts for emergency notifications as well. 
We have begun to use the Group messaging with IT staff and the president’s cabinet. Faculty members are beginning to get interested in the idea of polling. Group messages for campus student groups such as social clubs and student organizations will be rolling out.
To view this web seminar in its entirety, please go to