September 14, 2017
Communications Staff
image of Oberlin College marker
Photo credit: Walter Novak

During the 2017 spring semester, the Oberlin Office of Communications launched an initiative to better understand perceptions and preferences in the campus community related to internal communications. To accomplish this, we conducted qualitative and quantitative research with faculty, staff, and students through a series of focus groups and an online survey.

For the focus groups, we spoke with a total of 54 individuals, including 25 students, 18 faculty members, and 11 staff members. These conversations were instrumental in selecting the areas of inquiry for the subsequent online survey. They also helped paint a clearer, more detailed picture of the community’s communications habits and preferences.

Following the focus groups, we emailed to all faculty, staff, and students a link to an online survey. We received a meaningful response from the campus; participation was 35% for staff, 32% for faculty, and 14% for students—almost 800 individuals in total.

We deeply appreciate all those who offered their time and opinions for the research. We gained significant insight from the project, and we would like to share a few takeaways.

Key takeaways:
  • You would like more frequent and transparent communication from the administration. A concept clearly expressed across all groups, this has been shared with senior staff and President Ambar.
     
  • You would like more timely dissemination of information around important campus issues or announcements. The campus community would like to receive timely statements from the college to stay informed about serious issues on campus or other key policy information, even if it’s just acknowledgement of the situation.
     
  • Subjects of greatest importance to the campus: New campus policies, key staff changes, financial/budget information, safety alerts. Members of the campus community agreed, almost unanimously, that these four items were what they wanted to know about most. Students also listed “on-campus talks” as very important to them.
     
  • The weekly Campus Digest email should be re-thought to better meet our community’s needs. Specifically:
     
    • There’s a desire for more utility in the Campus Digest. While many appreciate reading stories about the accomplishments of other members of the campus community, they would also like the e-mail digest to include more information that is germane to day-to-day operations (key dates, announcements, deadlines, etc.). To address this, we will be shifting the type of content in the digest to include a greater quantity of actionable information.
       
    • Members of the community don’t frequently check the News section of the website. The weekly Campus Digest email is often the catalyst for visiting the news section of the website. In some cases, members of the campus community were learning about campus news from external sources before seeing the college’s announcement, which is understandably frustrating.
       
    • Many would like the Campus Digest email to be sent more frequently. Many desire a more frequent email roundup of what’s happening on campus. Others—students, for the most part—are generally not in favor of more frequent communications. In an attempt to address the needs of all community members, we are working with CIT to explore technology solutions that will provide a greater level of individual customization for both content and frequency.
       
    • You’d like a more aesthetically pleasing Campus Digest. Many reported they would be more likely to read the digest if it included images and came in html format. We’re working with CIT to choose a system that will allow us to make the emails more visually interesting and aesthetically pleasing.
       
    • Campus Digest email should arrive in the early morning. When it comes to the timing of the digest, faculty, staff, and students overwhelmingly agreed that they would like to receive it early in the morning.

 

  • You want to know who’s in your community. Most reported a strong desire to know who is in their community, as some felt disconnected to those outside their own office or department. To address this, we’ll be rolling out frequent staff and faculty profiles to introduce you to others in the Oberlin community.  
     
  • Make contacting the Office of Communications simple, and clarify the services it offers. We heard that many would like a simple, streamlined way to reach out to the Office of Communications with story ideas and communications questions. To address this request, we’ll be rolling out a new communications website that will outline how our office serves the community and the appropriate person to contact for each type of request.
     
  • The digital signage on TV screens is the promotional medium on campus that is paid attention to the least. We’re currently exploring options for how we can better utilize the digital monitors.
     

We’re looking forward to implementing these changes in order to better serve our campus community. We hope to introduce a reimagined Campus Digest email this semester, and we will roll out other services in the future. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.

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