A little over a month ago the university informed us that we will be piloting a new tool called Pronto, which is chat tool with an app that is fully integrated into my Blackboard courses and students can send me a message straight to my cell phone.
On their website the company is calling their app a “communication hub created for the everyday user. It connects people via chat and video, so they can learn faster, work smarter, and communicate seamlessly.” https://pronto.io/
So far, I have mostly used the chat portion of the app and I am really enjoying it because I don’t need to stay in front of my computer to communicate with my students. Nor do they need to wait for me to log in so I can respond.
I believe that apps like Pronto will assist in learning becoming more mobile. When I first heard about the pilot, I knew that my students would like this tool because they are always on their phones. If they can’t do something on their phones, they feel that it is too much of an inconvenience to have to log into their online/remote course on their computers.
I like that it is connected to my courses so students don’t need a separate login and that they can either log into our course or download the app on to their phones in order to send me a text.
To be honest, I thought that I would get inundated with a lot of text messages. Overall, I haven’t felt that I got so many that I am overwhelmed, and it actually reduced the number of student emails I receive every week. I am able to quickly and efficiently respond, solve and/or troubleshoot any problem or questions the students might be facing/having.
Initially I found that the students didn’t expect me to text them back so quickly and were a bit surprised with the quick turnaround in my responses. I also really love being so accessible and more available without having to go to my email. This way of communicating seems to be making my students happy and it makes my job easier and less stressed as I can respond no matter if I am home working or as I am waiting for my son to finish his swim practice.
Besides the real time chat Pronto offers features like video chat for one-to-one meetings or meetings up to 20 participants and with 400 observing, as well as being able to send announcements. In addition, they also offer live translation which means I can be typing in English and students can be translating what I am writing in their native languages in real time. What cool feature for ESL or EFL students.
The other feature that I just started to use this week is the group tool. It was so easy to create groups in pronto. The way I am using this tool is for a group assignment that my students are currently working on. Many of them were reflecting last week in their blogs that they are having a hard time connecting with their group members or they playing email tag with each other. I am hoping that using Pronto will help alleviate the frustration students feel when their group members are not more available and/or do not respond faster. Of course it remains to be seen how it will work and if the students will use Pronto to its full potential, but it is definitely worth trying.
Overall, Pronto has been a wonderful addition to the arsenal of online tools that the university has decided to have us try out. We are so lucky to have such an amazing, forward thinking, and innovative IT department and e-learning team.
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