A colleague recently suggested that email within our organisation is not looking at all healthy and may be on its last legs. At 40 years of age email is not that old in human terms but for many staff email is well past its use-by date and often feels like this video clip with most staff receiving serveral hundred emails each month...
A full inbox is a dis-heartening sight - particularly if you spend hours emptying it one week only to discover it full the next. For some (many?) the email ritual has become one of 'quick-scan' - 'select-all' - 'delete'.
Unfortunately this process can result in missed opportunities, lost student work and low response rates.
For an organisation with over 2,000 staff across 19 campuses communication is vital but it can't always be face-to-face. And we realised some years ago that it can't be all paper-based - the large bin used to fill very quickly as staff walked away from their pigeon-holes.
So... where does that leave us? We have the telephone which is now mobile and therefore more convenient - and more intrusive. And mobiles are rapidly becoming PDAs that beep every few minutes as emails arrive - in addition to calls and SMS.
We are flooded with information but starved of what we need to know and what we would like to know.
Are there solutions? I think so... Provided we can first agree on what is best done through a particular mode of communication and how best to use the chosen mode - and then share those guidelines across the organisation.
We have many choices...
Face-to-face: Meetings don't always have to always be state-wide, or formal, or filled with information...
Email: Can be auto-directed to folders, compiled into digests or newsletters, flagged and prioritised, auto-forwarded to preferred addresses... Email should not be 'just-in-case you needed to know' information or bulk mailed when it doesn't concern the majority of users.
Portals/Websites: Can be organised to locate information just-in-time, be RSS enabled and be up-to-date.
Online spaces: Can be used for collaborative editing of documents (eg Google Documents) or more complex collaboration (Wikis or Google Groups)
Aggregators: Can be used to receive and organise and share what each person wants to know from websites, portals, newsfeeds, multimedia channels, blogs and micro-blogs, wikis... (eg Google Reader)
Podcasts/vodcasts: Can be used to broadcast or narrowcast audio and video.
Blogs/micro-blogs: Can be used to share stories, collaborate and create personal and professional networks - locally and globally.
Mobile Phones: Can be used to send reminders and information to individuals and groups - as well as get feedback.
Online meeting spaces: Can be used for communication, sharing, collaboration, simulation depending on the space chosen (eg Elluminate, FlashMeeting, Second Life...) Sessions can be recorded for playback or broadcast or narrowcast.
Paper: Can be newsletters, magazines, pamphlets, stickers, posters, cards, books...
Existing services: There are many online services, directories, channels... that are provided locally, nationally and globally for educational institutions, educators and students. (eg edna)
What else do we need to consider before deciding on guidelines for communication, collaboration, dialogue and networking across a large multi-campus organisation?
Which combination of these is likely to provide the most efficient and effective communication solution?
Is it possible to 'save' email or is it too late? :-)