With many still without power, last weekend’s unseasonable nor’easter serves as a timely warning of what is likely to come in the next few months. This particular storm was especially damaging due to its unseasonable occurrence, where the quick accumulation of snow on mostly leaf-covered trees had branches and limbs bending and collapsing under the extreme weight, hitting power lines and blocking roads. Over the course of the storm and the ensuing aftermath, administrators, educators and local leaders turned to Blackboard Connect, sending nearly 5.4 million messages with updates detailing class cancellations, road closures and local recovery efforts. Now is the perfect time to review your communication and preparedness plans in the event of extreme winter weather.
The rise in popularity of the major social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, has caused a shift in the way higher education institutions communicate with campus stakeholders. Many colleges and universities are using social media, in conjunction with other multi-channel communications, to engage and exchange information with current and former students alike. Although it has been in existence longer, the text message continues to change the way people communicate. It comes as no surprise to hear that 31 percent of adults prefer to be contacted via text, as reported by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Not surprisingly, young adults (aged 18 – 24 years old) were found to be the most avid texters, exchanging an average of 109.5 messages on a normal day. With such proclivity for texting, our college and university clients have found the ability to send out text messages with timely information and notifications to students and the surrounding campus community is to be increasingly vital.
The birth of the smartphone, with easily accessible and convenience-enhancing applications, has had a profound effect on how we use and interact with our mobile phones. Recently, Nielsen published its quarterly Report on Social Media, finding that nearly 40 percent of social media users access content from their mobile phone. Nearly half of the Nielsen survey participants reported to have social networking features on their phone, thus demonstrating how the rise of smartphones has affected communication consumption habits.
Last Thursday’s national earthquake drill, the Great ShakeOut, was a great success. Roughly 8.6 million people across several Western states participated in this year’s event with drills, education sessions and emergency exercises. Many institutions in earthquake country use the ShakeOut event to test their mass notification systems, and this year was no different. In fact, schools, universities and local government officials used Blackboard Connect to send more than 1.9 2.5 million messages or on Thursday, with no significant disruptions in service. That’s a 74 131 percent increase in traffic over last year!
As of Monday, October 17, roughly 8.3 million people have signed up to participate in the fourth annual Great California ShakeOut. On Thursday, October 21 at 10:21 a.m., schools, university and municipalities will be practicing a state-wide earthquake drill. The ShakeOut was started in an effort to increase earthquake preparedness and practice response so as to reduce recovery time. Last year, Blackboard Connect helped deliver more than 1.12 million messages for ShakeOut events. An important stress test of sorts, the Blackboard Connect system sent many of these ‘drill’ calls in a short window of time to a narrow geographic region. If you are a resident of California, Idaho, Oregon or Nevada (click here for a full list of participating states/regions), get involved in this year’s event by registering here to find out what to do in the event of an earthquake. To learn more about how Blackboard Connect can help you enhance preparedness, watch our recent presentation, ‘Are You Prepared for an Emergency?’