February 15, 2008

NEWS: Textcaster Disaster

“We wanted to give more info than the 140 characters allowed in texting, so we used infolist and the student announcements." Julie Haas, director of College Information and Publications

Campus Fails to get the (text) Message
Problems with vendor prompts administration to not use text messaging service in an emergency

By Miguel M. Morales

JCCC did not trust its messaging service to deliver an emergency message regarding a missing student Feb. 14.

"We went with what we knew was working well and allowed full communication," said Julie Haas, director of College Information and Publications. “We wanted to give more info than the 140 characters allowed in texting, so we used infolist and the student announcements.”

Textcaster administers the service which is a partnership with the college and the Olathe News.

Rachael Renee Wooldridge, student, Prairie Village, disappeared from campus yesterday after calling her father for a ride. Wooldridge turned up in Lawrence later that evening.

Haas said currently more than 3,700 people signed up for the college's text messaging service, TXTJCCC, through the college’s website. That is a 740 percent increase from this time last year. Despite the success at enrolling the campus community in the TXTJCCC service, the college has been experiencing trouble with the system.

When a snowstorm caused the college to close Feb. 6, the TXTJCCC service sent a message notifying students, staff and faculty. However many did not receive the message until 10 am or later. “If you recall from last week [during the snowstorm], we had a little trouble with text messaging service. They were running slow and some of the carriers (AT&T, for one) didn’t let the messages through,” Haas explained.

She also added that part of the responsibility falls with those who signed up for the service.

“We’re finding out one problem is when people change carriers,” she said. “Even if their phone numbers stay the same, they have to get back in and change the carrier or they won’t get a message.”

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