E-Mail is for Old People

Interesting article from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Essentially, this looks at how universities communicate with students and the changing role of traditional email.

They refer to results from a 2005 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project indicating the teens use technologies like IM or text messenging to talk to friends and email to talk to “old people.” Unfortunately, you can’t generalize these results and say that teens don’t use email. That’s ridiculous. Of course they use email. What they don’t do is use email to chat the way that many of us “old folks” where socialized into through the last 10 or so years.

However, I do agree that universities should start looking at other modes of communication to get important information to students. In reality, this doesn’t mean the loads of departmental or schools emails advertising the latest speaker. Those I can do without (being 7,500 miles from campus). I think that this is most important when facilitating communication between students and professors as well as students and students. This is where the real gap exists.

The problem is coming up with a system that either gets every student using one system (highly unlikely) or developing a system that can monitor multiple systems. Trillian is one example of this. Trillian enables one to monitor multiple IM clients from one interface. Very useful. Now, how about something that sends text messages and monitors accounts in multiple online social networking accounts. I know that I’m likely dreaming.

One possibility that the article discusses is a rather old approach but still around and being reinvented all the time is the portal. For those of us who remember the old portals, this sounds stupid. It’s as difficult to get someone to a portal as it is to get them to a Web page. However, newer portals are incorporating a lot of neat features that just may draw users in. Not to mention that many universities have online spaces for each class that a student takes. If these spaces are utilized and students have to access them through the portal, now you have a space that people will visit.

Can’t wait to see what happens with this in the next couple years.

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