Eric Kunnen\’s GRCC Blog

Connecting with Students – Text Messaging, Facebook, and YouTube at GRCC
November 20, 2008, 3:20 pm
Filed under: Articles, Work Activities | Tags: , , ,

With the release of the iPhone as well as the flood of iPhone-like phones from other vendors, it’s all about mobile these days.  In fact, going back a few years, GRCC was one of the first colleges in West Michigan to employ text messaging for crisis situations.  Recently, however, GRCC started using a system called Rave Wireless to send crisis messages to students, and the college will soon begin to offer the ability for students to receive “academic” text messages from GRCC’s Blackboard environment.  While more capabilities are coming from the Rave Wireless service, at this point, Blackboard announcements can be selected to be received by students on their mobile phone via a text message. (Standard text messaging rates apply.) More information about this service will be available on GRCC’s Mobile web site as to when the date to release this functionality is decided.

In preparing for the release of new functionality with the Rave Wireless system, and knowing that nearly all students are carrying a cell phone on campus, we also wanted to know how many students use their mobile device to send and receive text messages.  We recently ran a poll on our GRCC Blackboard portal ( and found that roughly 72% of students say they regularly use text messaging.  While it isn’t a research based inquiry, it still gives us a pulse of what students are saying about this channel of communication.  In addition, this isn’t a small number of student responses as we had over 4500 responses.  Here are the results of the poll:


In addition, Gary Ebels, an instructor here at GRCC recently sent me a report from eMarketer on college students and teen web tastes.  After reviewing these data, it seems as though GRCC students are matching up with national reports where, as the eMarketer reports, the percentage of students that send or receive text messages also fall within the 70% range.   Here is the report from the eMarketer site:

You will also notice in the chart above that instant messaging is also very popular with students and rated as being used by up to 77% of students.  Looking at this through a GRCC lens, we are being deliberate about meeting students where they are and using technologies that they are most comfortable with.  As such, we currently offer instant messaging tools such as Wimba Pronto that GRCC faculty and students can use to increase communication and to encourage more effective collaboration.  Wimba Pronto, with it’s text chat, video conferencing, application sharing, and chat queuing provides faculty and students with an effective and easy-to-use tool that is integrated into GRCC’s Blackboard environment which makes it quick to connect with and communicate with fellow classmates and professors. Currently, more than 1,389 students and 141 instructors have signed up to use Wimba Pronto at GRCC.

Continuing on further, this eMarketer web site reports that the most popular websites include Facebook and YouTube.  Again, looking at this through a GRCC lens, we are also moving forward with ways for students to be engaged with the college through these channels.  Take Blackboard Sync and CourseFeed, for example.  These Facebook applications provide an easy way for students to keep track and get notified what is happening in their Bb courses, without leaving Facebook.  Currently more than 1,700 students have signed up to use CourseFeed and roughly 150 students have created an account on Blackboard Sync.

Finally, through GRCC’s YouTube site, a rich set of resources are available.   From courses, to lectures, to special events, video is available on-demand for students and the community. Here are some of GRCC’s more popular videos currently playing on YouTube:

Single most watched video in 1 day:

  • Diversity Conversation: Ray Suarez and Rev. Doug VanDoren received 9392 views on Oct 8, 2008 9:40:36 PM

Most watched videos:

  • Hands On Luthier: Galloup Guitars and Brian Morris
  • Historical Overview of Grand Rapids Community College
  • Jim Crow Museum Documentary Ferris State
  • Lost Boys of Sudan Panel Discussion
  • LEED Home Floor Trusses
  • Green Roof installed on GRCC’s Applied Tech Ctr.
  • GRCC Chemistry Lecture Helen Free
  • Association of Builders LEED Test Preparation
  • Colin Campbell speaks at GRCC Wellness Forum
  • Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem: Story

Most Discussed:

  • Child Immunizations
  • Should Intelligent Design be Taught in the Classroom
  • Jim Crow Museum Documentary Ferris
  • Hands On Luthier: Galloup Guitars

It’s an exciting time for students and faculty… there are more academically focused technology tools available now than ever before.  Tools that can provide an outstanding set of resources that enable teaching and learning to be extended beyond the boundaries of a brick and morter campus.  These technology tools can improve student engagement IN and OUT of the classroom.  Something that community colleges can improve on, based on a recent report by CSSE highlighted in a recent Inside Higher Ed edition.  Specifically, the article entitled: “Helping Community Colleges Raise the Bar“, mentioned the following:

“Overall engagement is low for community college students out of the classroom, according to the survey. Only 16 percent reported that they discussed ideas with their professors outside of class, and 21 percent worked with classmates outside of class to prepare assignments.”

By leveraging electronic tools such as Blackboard (discussion boards), Wimba Pronto (instant messaging), CourseFeed & Bb Sync (Facebook applications), and Rave Wireless (text messaging) educators can begin to create inviting and engaging communities of learners.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Why do so many choose Coursefeed over BBSync?

Interesting post.

Comment by mpstaton

Hey mpstaton,

Sorry we didn’t get a chance to connect at Educause.

One of the reasons is that we have had CourseFeed longer… we just turned BbSync on. Also, CourseFeed does a “better” job at prompting to invite other users to join.

CourseFeed also seems more like a true Facebook app. See my comparison from earlier here:

Thanks for posting your comment,

Comment by ekunnen

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