ConnectYard Strengthens Learning Community by Integrating Social, Mobile Media Tools

ConnectYard Strengthens Learning Community by Integrating Social, Mobile Media ToolsThese days, there’s a yawning communication gap between instructors and their students. It began with the rise of social and mobile media, which prompted students to abandon email in droves and begin to use text messaging and social media venues like Facebook and Twitter as their primary means of communication. Meanwhile, most college and university faculty and staff continued to use email and email-based Learning Management System (LMS) tools to communicate with their students. The result was many missed messages as many students rarely check their email while constantly receiving and sending text messages and checking social media sites. Enter ConnectYard (http://www1.connectyard.com/), a growing enterprise that aims to close the communication gap and help educational institutions build stronger learning communities.

ConnectYard was founded in 2007 by Chief Executive Officer Donald Doane and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Grant Warner. The co-founders met as students at Cornell University in the late 90s. After graduating, they collaborated on web consulting projects with major companies, including AT&T. Mr. Doane and Dr. Warner were inspired to launch ConnectYard when they noticed the disconnect in student-faculty communication.

Other companies were offering products that used social media tools for student-instructor communication, but they did not address privacy concerns, such as the requirement that students and professors “friend” or “follow” one another on Facebook or Twitter. The prospect of moving faculty and staff onto social media platforms also required institutions to contemplate requiring instructors to give up their preferred communication venue – email – and threatened to void large LMS investments and associated tools upon which teachers rely.

Mr. Doane and Dr. Grant knew there had to be a better way. Their original idea was to create a document sharing platform, and they returned to their alma mater, Cornell University, to gauge student receptiveness to the idea. That’s where they experienced the breakthrough that spurred ConnectYard’s rapid growth:

“We went back to Cornell thinking that we’d get some feedback on a document sharing system we were developing, but what we got instead was profound shift in perspective,” Mr. Doane recalls. “Through our conversations with the students in the focus group, we came to realize the problem was much more broadly based and that what the market needed was a solution that bridged the gap in communication venues. There was nothing like that on the marketplace, so we set out to develop it.”

ConnectYard had an advantage many startups lack – an existing business the founders could leverage to fund their new enterprise. Operating the fledgling startup required careful management of the company’s resources, but after the team launched its initial product suite, the company quickly took off and has enjoyed rapid growth despite challenging economic conditions.

That’s because ConnectYard offers something that truly is unique in the marketplace. By using ConnectYard, colleges and universities can engage students on the communication venues they use the most – mobile messaging and social media – while enabling faculty and staff to continue using email and LMS-based communication systems. ConnectYard offers the best of both worlds, allowing instructors to send communication to individual students or their entire classes via email while students receive communication via text or social media, all without requiring a direct exchange of social media or mobile communication information between students and their instructors.

ConnectYard also offers social media-inspired metrics and tools such as “trending topics” that help both students and teachers gauge interest in subjects. And it allows educational institutions to fully leverage the investments they’ve made in learning management systems like Blackboard or Moodle, which provide a variety of tools instructors use to enhance the learning experience.

“Closing the communication gap between instructors and students has an amazingly positive impact,” Dr. Warner observes. “By seamlessly integrating preferred communication tools and tying social and mobile media communication directly to the learning pathway, our customers can more effectively engage students to raise retention rates and build a more connected, stronger learning community.”

ConnectYard’s solution has found a receptive higher education audience. The company’s clients include the United States Air Force Academy’s Air University, Anne Arundel Community College, Concordia University, California University of Pennsylvania, Dominican University and many more. Bringing the founders full circle, the company’s first client was Cornell University.

As the ConnectYard solution continues to improve communication at a growing number of college and university campuses, Mr. Doane, Dr. Warner and the entire ConnectYard team are making plans to expand the application of their unique products into the business world and K-12 education sector. Higher education isn’t the only area in which new communication tools have disrupted established communication modes: Talent management professionals and K-12 teachers alike are experiencing many similar disconnects as a new generation enters the workforce and school environments, and the ConnectYard team is in a unique position to assist them in the transition. Learn more about ConnectYard at http://www1.connectyard.com/.

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