Palm Beach State College (PBSC) has a long history of providing high quality education throughout Palm Beach County, Florida. As the first public community college in Florida, PBSC has grown to serve more than 48,000 students annually―a student body that represents more than 165 nations throughout the world.
The college has grown over the years and now serves students on four, soon to be five campuses spread across a large geographic area. While not all programs are completely online, a vast majority of students use the Blackboard Learn™ learning management system (LMS) to take online courses on a regular basis during their education.
With so many new students joining the college each year, the eLearning Department was struggling to keep up with questions about LMS functions at the beginning of every semester. This was also the case throughout the term when students encountered a new, previously unused tool. Most of the questions were simple, such as how to login, but many questions were much more specific, especially those related to the LMS tools and functions.
In order to solve the problem, PBSC setup an Online Student Support Center to provide assistance, guide the students to available online tutorials and answer student questions. However, the new Support Center soon ran into logistical difficulties.
“The main IT department would get the call at their help desk,” said Sidney Beitler, Director of eLearning. “If the problem was LMS related, the help desk generated a support ticket which would be electronically transferred to us. We then had to contact the student and ask a lot of questions to find out where they were within the LMS and what problem they were experiencing. Only then could we provide instructions on where to find our existing tutorials and/or to provide simple instructions about a specific LMS function.” The whole process took a lot of time, not only for staff, but for students as well. “We also didn’t have the capacity to help students 24 hours a day,” said Beitler.
EesyMessaging for Student Support
Approximately nine months ago, Beitler was introduced to EesySoft, a Blackboard partner. The EesySoft Building Block helps institutions measure and increase Blackboard adoption. Its EesyMessaging™ solution allows institutions to communicate with individual and segments of users during their actual application usage, proactively addressing problems, promoting functionality or reinforcing key capabilities.
As soon as PBSC activated EesyMessaging, students began migrating into the solution for assistance. “The best part of EesySoft is the ability to send the right message to the right person at the right time in order to solve their issue,” said Beitler. “EesySoft gives the eLearning Department the ability to overlay a message on the page where users are experiencing a problem. This feature alone reduced calls by 40-50 percent.”
In certain situations, the results were even better. A large percentage of online exams utilize a video monitoring system that requires students to use Respondus LockDown Browser® to access exams. As a result, the Support Center would receive a tremendous amount of calls from students saying they couldn’t access their exams. “Using EesySoft, we were able to place a message over the Respondus-enabled exam link that provided instructions on how to access the exam,” said Beitler. “Our calls for that specific problem have been reduced by 75-80 percent.”
Contact eLearning Support
Of course, informational notices do not solve all issues. The EesySoft Dashboard also has a support form for requesting direct assistance, but the default form was not specific enough for the Support Center to efficiently identify certain issues. EesySoft quickly provided a customized button for PBSC within Blackboard Learn called “Contact eLearning Support” that includes custom forms, which auto-identify where the student is within Blackboard Learn when they are encountering an issue.
“This functionality is saving us a lot of time,” said Beitler. “Besides knowing who the student is and where they were in the LMS when they encountered a problem, we also know what browser and operating system they are using, among other specific information. This allows us to immediately assess the situation and point students to a specific tutorial or information, or identify a problem that needs to be addressed.”
“After the successful introduction of EesyMessaging to students, we are now ramping up to target faculty and staff,” said Beitler. “This will improve Blackboard proficiency among faculty, especially adjunct professors that might not be as familiar with the LMS.”
The college is also planning to use EesyReports™ in the near future. “The administration is asking us questions about how much time specific students are spending in Blackboard and how those students performed on certain activities during their online classes,” said Beitler. “EesyReports will give us the ability to see this information down to the micro-level.”
Since EesyReports is actionable, PBSC will be able to see where students or faculty are struggling and can then post user-targeted notices and provide specific tutorials to help them become more proficient. “We are extremely thrilled with EesySoft,” said Beitler. “The solution is stable, easy to use and the support staff at EesySoft has been great.”