Over the last couple of months we’ve been working with colleagues in Learning Services to roll out a “live chat” service allowing students to ask helpdesk staff questions online.
Here’s what it looks like for the student:
And a sneak peak of what the staff interface looks like:
It makes use of an XMPP/Jabber server called Openfire with a plugin called Fastpath that talks to the Spark client installed on staff machines. Fastpath provides a web interface that can be embedded into the Learning Services website.
The service is currently a trial running 11am – 3pm so go along and take a look.
We’ve been running a Jabber/XMPP server here for a few months now and with it being part of the new GO portal it’s probably about time to say a little bit more about it. Technical Services have been dealing with the roll out of the client to desktop machines and I’ve been looking after the server side of things along with the web client embedded in GO.
The server is open to everyone with an Edge Hill username and password and you’re free to connect in from home or even via a mobile client. The desktop client we’ve gone for internally is based on Spark – it’s really easy to use yet has some pretty advanced features lurking underneath for those who need them.
Your login ID is email@example.com (not the fancy firstname.lastname@example.org style email address which some people have) and the server name is edgehill.ac.uk. That should be all you need to get online! Once you’re connected you’ll need to add some contacts – just click the “Add a contact” button and enter the username to make the request.
The service has some fairly advanced features for those that wish to take advantage of them:
- Conferences: join an existing conference room or create your own for private discussion.
- Links to other IM networks. If you use Yahoo, MSN/Live Messenger, AIM, ICQ or Google Talk they you can link your account with the other services so all your contacts show in one list.
- Interconnect with other IM networks direct! Some other networks are based on the XMPP protocol so for these you can add contacts directly – try it out with a Gmail address for a Google Talk user. A number of other UK universities are also using Jabber and we’re working to interconnect with them.
- Twitter via IM: if you’ve caught the Twitter bug you can link your account so you can send and receive status updated via IM.
- Get instant notifications of feed updates. Start a chat with email@example.com and send the word “help” for more information. This works great with a service like del.icio.us to receive notifications when people in your network bookmark a site.
Most of these services are also available via the web version of go.talk (although there are a few bugs when doing things like searching for conference rooms) so you can access all this from anywhere you have a network connection. So log in, try it out and let us know what you think. If you work for another organisation and have a Jabber server then post a comment and we’ll try to get them talking to each other.