Wimba Solutions Improve Academic and Administrative Help and Support Services

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Schools rely on Wimba to provide flexible, cost-effective expansion of virtual support and service offerings, enabling increased accessibility and continued collaboration.

Wimba® Inc., a leading provider of collaborative solutions for educators around the world, announced today that colleges and universities are increasingly turning to the capabilities of the Wimba Collaboration Suite™ to meet growing demands for enhanced help and support services. By providing collaborative solutions that support a 24/7 online environment, Wimba makes it possible for schools to deliver academic and administrative help - whether through the expansion of help desk support, online tutoring, informal instruction opportunities or other campus services - to students, faculty and staff whenever and wherever it is needed most.

Taking the Help Desk to the Students

The help desk, a mainstay of the collegiate experience for decades, is facing a crisis of convenience. According to a 2008 Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE), while students attribute relatively high importance to academic advising and career counseling, 35% to 51% of students rarely (or never) take advantage of those services. Inconvenient hours and even performance anxiety can keep students from seeking one-on-one support. Forward-thinking institutions that realize students greatly benefit from academic advising/planning, academic skill development and other services that may affect learning and retention are taking the help desk to their students using Wimba.

Universities worldwide are using Wimba to improve various administrative and academic help desk and support services. At Vernon College in Texas, library staff use Wimba to offer a virtual librarian that connects library staff at Vernon in real-time with students attending branch campuses in Wichita Falls and Seymour. With limited on-site library support at the branch campuses, Wimba features such as application sharing allow the Vernon College staff to provide live, online demonstrations on how to search the library's catalog and full text article databases. Reference assistance is also available to support Seymour nursing students via a dedicated workstation equipped with Wimba in the resource room. The administration at El Paso Community College, also in Texas, provides campus Course Management System, General Ed and IT help desk support using Wimba and is preparing to expand its usage by offering additional student services, such as tutoring, admissions, registration, counseling and campus police support features.

"It's not just about distance education anymore," said Bob Jones, Director of Distance Education at El Paso Community College. "We want to focus on really improving the student experience and our faculty's ability to teach students anywhere, anytime."

Students seeking writing support at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) in Utah use the school's Writing Center, a service that helps with everything from correcting grammatical errors, to ensuring students are on track with assignment requirements, and which now supports online weekend and late-night sessions with Wimba.

Christine Larson, one of SLCC's live online tutors, emphasizes the convenience of Wimba, "I assure students that live, online help is easy and fun. I think the most beneficial part of live online tutoring has to be the convenience for students who want to use our services but whose schedules do not coincide with Writing Center hours."

These schools each use Wimba to augment existing services, allowing students and faculty the option of in-person support during regular business hours or individual support online anytime and anywhere it is needed.

Making Academic Support Easily Accessible

Being available at the exact moment a student is facing an academic challenge greatly increases academic success. Wimba Pronto™, an instant collaboration system designed to promote learning through informal instruction and meetings, encourages students and faculty to interact frequently as individuals or in small groups.

Indiana's Ivy Tech Community College has more than 1,200 faculty and 35,000 students using Wimba Pronto to encourage ongoing interaction between students and instructors well after class has ended. Bonnie Willy, associate professor of Computer Information Systems and Computer Information Technology, uses Wimba Pronto to collaborate with both students and peers, often on the spur-of-the-moment.

"The ability to provide immediate feedback can make or break a student's success," Willy says. "With email, there's not only a delay in responding but the spontaneity is gone. Pronto preserves the 'spark of spontaneity.'" Because her students come from seven counties in Eastern Indiana, Willy also believes that online conversation is crucial to individual relationship building and engagement.

In addition to instant collaboration through Wimba Pronto, other solutions within the Wimba Collaboration Suite help keep learning accessible at any time.

At Kentucky Virtual Schools (KYVS), language faculty regularly rely on Wimba Classroom™ to hold live online tutorials for students needing extra help, even though the teacher might be located on the other side of the state. This is particularly beneficial for the language program, where the ability to vocalize pronunciations and inflections is critical to student understanding and success.

Beth Gaunce, former Program Consultant and World Languages instructor at KYVS, attributes student improvement directly to the adoption of Wimba. "Synchronous communication in a largely non-synchronous process helps students connect to teachers, ask immediate questions, and get individualized instruction," said Gaunce. "Wimba contributes in a significant way to student success."

Supporting Students through Virtual Administration

Collegiate support services extend beyond help desks and tutoring, especially for first-year students who are just entering the college or graduate school experience. Today, schools are expanding their use of Wimba to reach more students with orientation, advising and support.

The School of Education at Drexel University now hosts an Online First-Year Experience via Wimba for their online and blended learning master's and doctoral students. For the first event, a Virtual Tea Orientation, the school distributes tea sachets to every student along with an invitation to meet live using Wimba Classroom™.

At Collin College in Texas, faculty and staff use Wimba to provide free, private and anonymous assistance with registration questions. Students can log on during scheduled online advising hours and ask questions about which classes to take, how to transfer credits and any other advisory concerns such as admissions, testing and degree requirements.

Wimba can also support orientations on a course-by-course level. Faculty at Tulsa Community College (TCC) use Wimba Classroom to deliver class orientations at the beginning of each semester. Wimba's voice and audio capabilities allow TCC students to gain useful information in advance of new courses. With synchronous orientations, they can even ask questions of faculty and get immediate answers, so they come to class fully prepared on the first day.

"Forward-thinking educators are continuously examining ways to effectively and affordably reach students throughout their engagement with an institution," said Carol Vallone, CEO and Chairman of the Board at Wimba. "Our customers are using Wimba's intuitive technologies to engage the learner like never before. From orientation and pre-admissions counseling to expanding help desk and other support services online, Wimba helps colleges increase service utilization and maximize resources. It is this type of innovative thinking that will allow colleges and universities to reach more students and optimize learning without compromising the bottom line."

About Wimba®
Wimba® is a leading provider of collaborative solutions used by thousands of educators around the world to engage students, support business needs, and save time and money. The Wimba Collaboration Suite™ -- awarded the 2009 "Best Education Solution" and 2010 "Best Collaboration Solution" CODiE award by SIIA -- offers students, teachers and administrators an engaging and comprehensive collaboration environment for instruction, meetings and help. By combining academic features, ease of use and interactive technologies, Wimba goes well beyond web conferencing and sets a new standard for collaboration. http://www.wimba.com

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Kathleen Matthews
Wimba, Inc.
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