Survey says… Fix my email address!


Student Communications Survey insights

Remember when we told you about the Student Experience Working Group (SEWG)? One of the 2015-16 projects was centred around improving student communications and building better awareness of events, programs and services. To help inform how we go about this, we thought it would be useful to get a clearer picture of what works and what doesn’t in terms of student communications, so we asked you about it in a survey.

And what did we learn? Well, we kinda learned we’re wrong. At least when it comes to how frequently you read your email.

We learned that 85% of you look at your student email daily, or at least once or twice a week. That’s kind of a big deal; it dispels an idea that many of us staff have been known to perpetuate: that students don’t like to read their email (our bad, sorry). We were also surprised to learn that about 2/3 of you look at the myOCADU portal daily, or at least weekly. In fact, you ranked your student email, Canvas and the portal among the top three ways you learn about news, events, deadlines and opportunities. Fantastic!

Bar chart: how students find out about news, events, deadlines, opportunities

We also asked you about our website. “Your website sucks, OCADU!” Yup, we hear that one a lot. But when it comes right down to it, your opinions were much more mixed than we expected.

Bar chart: Experience of the OCAD U website

For example, look at how opinions about the difficulty of our website navigation are spread out across Agree, Neutral and Disagree. We’re not saying we don’t have work to do to improve our site’s navigation, but perhaps navigation isn’t entirely the root of the problem. We noted several comments about the learning curve related to figuring out the university’s information hierarchy. This makes a lot of sense: university websites in general (not just OCAD U’s) are trying to communicate to many audiences: prospective students, students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, the general public, community stakeholders and partners, industry, government, and prospective employees. Naturally, that makes for a lot of info to try to organize into clear, navigable paths. Fun fact: our website has over 5800 (!!!) pages, and counting.

We also heard in this section that the day-to-day student business info is too buried, and that it’s spread out across a lot of different places and should be consolidated. This kind of feedback is key for helping us plan improvements to the myOCADU portal and soon-to-be-available mobile app.

Next, we asked a lot of questions about your student email experience. And rather than show you a bunch more graphs, I thought I’d share some of the key themes that came out of these questions.

Email works well
You told us over and over in the survey that email works well. You told us that clear subject lines are super important, and that you read messages from all types of senders at OCAD U. Most of you didn’t agree that you get too much email, but you also said that you would like to see events-related stuff better consolidated into say, monthly messages.

Fix my email address!
We hear you. You told us that you want to be able to use your student email for professional, career-related communications because you want to be able to demonstrate your affiliation with OCAD U, but that right now, the numerical format is totally impersonal, so you’re less inclined to use it.

The structure of your student email addresses is a legacy issue from our Google Apps for Education implementation in 2011, which was based on the student information system (SIS) configuration we had at that time. We’ve upgraded our SIS in the last couple years, and in the near future we plan to upgrade the student email system as well. Think if it like updating your operating system: the new release will have new features, improvements, and bug fixes. Hang in there, and stay tuned for updates.

Important messages get buried
With the changes coming to the myOCADU portal, we hope to improve upon this for you by reducing the amount of messages you get in your email, and moving more of your day-to-day general communication into the portal. Our goal is to see improvements on this as early as this spring.

Finally, a frequently repeated request throughout the survey was to get the Canvas app (insert many exclamation points here). Not only have we heard this throughout the survey, but it’s also on the latest list of priorities developed by SEWG, we’ve heard it in face-to-face student discussions and it’s been a strong piece of feedback received through our mobile app beta test. As an aside, the mobile app that’s soon to launch is a customized third party app that talks to our student information system, and while it won’t (yet) include a mobile integration of Canvas (Wait, don’t go! Keep reading!), our hope is that it will help make your day-to-day business needs more mobile friendly.

With our friends from OCAD U Academic Computing, we’ve shared your many requests for the Canvas app with leadership. They’ve heard you loud and clear, and given our teams the thumbs up to figure out costing and implementation. I look forward to being able to report updates to you in the near future.

I want to thank everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to share their feedback about student communications. You’ve given us a really clear picture of your needs, of what’s working and what’s not, and this information will help us benchmark progress going forward. Onwards and upwards!

Sarah Mulholland, Manager, Student Communications

Image: Communication by Jonny Hughes