Would you like to chat?

In July this year the Jisc EdTech and Innovation team ran a live chat experiment.  We’d been doing some research and noted that many people we spoke to felt that often they’re were being given guidance when what they wanted was help. 

We wondered if allowing people to ask us anything they wanted in a live chat setting would lead to a different sort of request for help. 

The development team created a simple live chat structure that allowed people to ask questions via a webpage and then a team of Jisc staff were on hand to answer.  

The experiment itself was pretty resource intensive to run but also a lot of fun. 13 of us worked together to staff the back end of the chat between 10.00 and 16.00 each day, Monday to Friday from 13th to 24th July.  We each took two-hour shifts but others were always on standby to help with answering the questions as they came in. 

Some of the questions were asked just to test the system – “is this a real person or a bot”, “Was aardvark in Samuel Johnsons original dictionary? 

But we also had a range of enquiries on subjects as far ranging as accessibility in VR, GDPR compliance in Google forms and getting data out of Blackboard. One of the real advantages of the live chat was the ability to further the conversation, ask clarifying questions and get to the heart of the issue.  

We learnt a lot both about the practicalities of running a live chat itself (be able to type fast, make sure to respond quickly!) and about the sort of specific questions that people may want help with that can’t necessarily be found in an online guide. 

We feel that the sort of questions we were asked indicates that our original hypothesis from the research that people are looking for help has been largely shown to be true. Following on from this activity we’re going to explore that hypothesis further and see if there are other ways in which we might be able to develop tools that help our members get the help they need as they need it. 

We also really enjoyed running this experiment and intend to do more quick and experimental activities like this in the future.  Watch this space! 

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