University to launch new method of delivering internal electronic communications

Topic: Administrative

March 2, 2009

Beginning March 16, Ball State will unveil a fundamental change to the method and delivery of internal electronic communications on campus.

The coming changes are a response to students' desires to have more control over the way the university communicates with them, not only via e-mail but other forms of electronic communication as well. To address this issue, the Office of University Marketing and Communications is introducing the Communications Center, an initiative with three key components.

The first component is the Communications Center Web site. It will be a one-stop-shop that promotes all campus goings-on. Visitors can review, by category, announcements that have been submitted by approved publishers. When launched on March 16, the site's URL will be www.bsu.edu/commcenter.

The second component is a new Ball State Digest, delivered to the inboxes of students, faculty and staff twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays. One version will go to faculty and staff; another to students. The digest will be a round-up of timely announcements containing content generated through the Communications Center Web site.

The third component is a permission-based interface accessible from the Communications Center Web site that will allow users to manage e-mail and RSS feeds. Subscriptions to emergency text messaging also will be integrated into this interface. Individuals will be able to choose to opt out of unwanted e-mail.

All e-mail currently sent through the university's batch e-mail system will be processed through this new system when the Communications Center Web site goes live. The Communications Center will replace existing methods of electronic internal communications delivery, including Vignette Dialog, the batch e-mail system, the ALLBSU listing option in Outlook and the Employee Bulletin Board. It will not replace Blackboard, Gradebook or BSU@Work.

The Communications Center initiative was created by a task force comprised of students, faculty and staff that met extensively in 2008 to devise improvements addressing the issues the university faced in routing electronic messages to its internal audiences.

"What started as a discussion about how to reduce the amount of e-mail sent to our students evolved into a conversation about how best to communicate electronically with our campus community," said Tony Proudfoot, associate vice president for marketing and communications. "And we realized the way to do this was to provide users with more control and more options for communications.

"This is an exciting project for us and the feedback we've received so far in testing the site has been positive," Proudfoot added. "Student leaders and usability test subjects who've had a chance to preview the center were excited about the new approach."

The campus community will continue to receive essential communications via e-mail that will not be optional.  Examples include emergency e-mails, critical business communications, e-mails from the president, the twice-weekly Digest and administrative e-mails necessary for faculty and staff to carry out their responsibilities. 

Proudfoot said it's important for the campus community to remember the new system is an evolving tool and process.

"For those who take advantage of the permission-based e-mail management, they will see a drop in unwanted e-mails immediately," he said.  "As with the launch of any large project, phase one will be refined and will continue to evolve over time.

The system is designed to provide us with feedback so that gradually we can improve both the permissions, and also the policies, that allow e-mails to be sent to large lists. A year from now, we'll be even better at identifying and limiting unwanted e-mail than we are today."

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