Live Chat! Experience Temple is a new program that allows admitted or prospective students to ask University staff questions via a monitored chatroom.
Live Chat! Experience Temple, the university’s online version of an open house, is now being offered to admitted or perspective students to allow them to ask university staff questions they may have before orientation.
About 50 students and a number of their parents participated in the first two-hour, live chat session Feb. 1. The program is organized and sponsored by a collaboration of university departments, consisting of University Housing and Residential Life, Student Financial Services, Admissions and the Office of Orientation.
“We felt this opportunity was good to keep in contact with people and let people know we’re here to help,” Assistant Director for Assignments and Billing Sean Killion said.
The six total chat rooms, each of which belongs to a specific department, are moderated by a representative who interacts with and provides information for students. The Admissions chat room is divided between admitted and perspective students.
“I think [the live chat] would be beneficial,” said undeclared freshman Candace Copio, adding that she wished she could have used it before coming to Temple. “There are a lot of things I still don’t know.”
Recent high school graduates and transfer students make up the primary group being encouraged to use the live chat during their transitions to Temple, but it is available to current students as well.
“Down the road, you could almost see this become like an ‘online university fair,’” Killion said. “The system can support any number of rooms and groups.”
According to a 2009 study by the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of teens used the Internet to obtain information about a college or university, and 18 percent visited available chat rooms for additional information.
“Obviously the increase of social media and enhanced technology lends itself to doing more of this type of programming,” Killion said. “Students feel more comfortable in these types of environments, chatting online, using Facebook and other avenues incorporating technology, so [the program] is more in a response to how students feel most comfortable talking.”
The live chat is serviced by Fire Engine RED, a technology company based out of Philadelphia. Temple is the first institution out of more than 300 national and international clients that has integrated educational technology in the University Housing and Residence Life and Orientation Departments, Fire Engine RED Client Service Specialist Emma McAneny said.
“Working with various Temple offices over the years, we have seen that Temple is always among those in the forefront of using student-facing technology effectively,” McAneny wrote in an e-mail.
A common debate associated with social media like chat rooms is whether they may dissocialize young adults.
“It might affect them a little bit because if everything is online, you don’t really get to socialize,” junior business management major Nelinine Dunselien said. “It depends on the student.”
Killion added that the live chat rooms do not compare to the experience of physically visiting and taking a tour of Main Campus.
“I don’t see any of this replacing what we do in building that direct connection with students,” he said. “I think that is extremely vital during this process, but we can’t hide from the fact that more and more students and family members are demanding these types of additional forms of communication.”
The first live chat session received positive feedback from involved students and parents. The Admissions and Office of University Housing chat rooms have garnered the most attention.
“I think this generation of students want an answer right away,” Program Director of Orientation Rebecca Dzara said. “Oftentimes, they might call and have to listen to our voice mail or e-mail [which] takes 24 hours, we say, to respond, so [live chat] is an instant answer, which I know they like.”
While assessment on the Live Chat! Experience Temple program is ongoing, further plans include displaying relevant information from the live chat discussions on a university Web site, additional chat session dates and possibly the participation of other university departments.
Junior recreation therapy major Meghan Losch said it will be a good addition to physically seeing the campus.
“You still need to see the campus and see what’s going on during orientation. You make a lot of friends and meet a lot of the people who become your friends later,” she said.
About 400 students registered for the live chat program, and more are expected to participate as the admission deadline approaches. There are two scheduled live chat sessions remaining this semester on March 1 and April 1.
“Hopefully, when all is said and done, we’ll see that the combination of all those communications methods will overall show that we care,” Killion said. “The goal is certainly, in the end, to support the university’s plan to reach out to the various constituencies and provide more information in support of retaining students.”
Connor Showalter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.