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Deborah Armstrong

Make communication with students friendlier

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I have been a bookshare member myself since 2002 and love it. However, I am blind and a voracious reader.

I work at De Anza college, and the experience for many of my students is quite different. Reading is something they do only when necessary, and bookshare doesn't help with its impersonal and unfriendly communication methods. Here are two examples.

One of my students, and adult, wrote me the following:

>Hi Deborah, 
>I'm running into some trouble accessing one of the texts I need for class on Bookshare. The book is called Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, and although
>the book is in the Bookshare library, the system tells me I cannot access it until it is added for me to my reading list (literally: "You do not have access
>to this title; ask your teacher to add the book to a reading list.") I've attached a screenshot.
>I don't know how to overcome this issue, and would appreciate your help, as this is affecting my ability to complete assignments, seeing as reading without
>audio assistance is very difficult for me.

The student clearly doesn't know that she can easily become an individual member. Instead of an unfriendly message about how her "teacher" has to add books to a reading list for her, how about a welcoming message inviting her to become an individual member and explaining that if she needs the book now she should ask the college service provider who set up her account to give her access to the book.

For example:
"Oops, this book isn't on your reading list. You can access it by contacting Deborah at De Anza college who set up your bookshare account, or simply follow these simple steps to become an individual member."

The teacher concept is fine for K12, but in college, service providers working with disability services set up these accounts; professors have nothing to do with it and the message only confuses our students.

To further confuse things, many of my students also have Learning Ally accounts, where they simply add books to their bookshelf as needed. It's hard for them to understand that bookshare works differently.

For me, it would be nice if I could simply invite each student to become an individual member as soon as I set up their account. I've tried that, but they find the resulting correspondence they receive from bookshare equally confusing and simply ignore it.

>As you may know, John Doe uses a resource called Bookshare
> (
>to get accessible digital books and reading tools for school. This service is free through an award from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S.
>Department of Education, and students have access to titles that their teachers assign to them. Student Members can also use Bookshare independently for
>free, getting access to hundreds of thousands of titles and free reading tools to assist with homework or independent pleasure reading. We encourage you
>to complete the following steps to begin using Bookshare anywhere, anytime:
>1. Complete the Individual Membership application online
> and enter your personalized Activation ID in the appropriate field: JuliaDye38693
>2. Read and agree to the Bookshare Member Agreement online.
>3. If the form cannot be completed online,
>contact Bookshare
> to learn how to submit a paper form.

To many print-impaired folks, the above message reads like spam. It's turgid bureaucratic process-speak. Instead how about a note saying:

"Deborah Armstrong from De Anza college has just set up an account for you for reading through bookshare.
These are ebooks you can read in audio, Braille, large print or any other way you need. You can read them online or download to read them anywhere.
Right now you are an organizational member. This means if you want a book, you will need to ask Deborah to assign it to you.
But you can become an individual member for free and search for and download books yourself. Follow these simple steps to set up your individual membership."

The student could automatically receive this friendly note from bookshare as soon as I create an account for them. And, doesn't that sound much more clear and inviting than the above obtuse communication?

Students could also automatically receive a link to a video introducing them to bookshare and showing them how to sign up. Most of my students prefer Youtube to reading!

Thanks for your time.

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Three months later, and nothing's changed. Don't you guys get that my college students no longer have involved parents who will read their email, fill out their forms etc, and that they have a learning impairment which makes long bureaucratic email hard to understand!!! If you are truly serious about encouraging organizational members to become individual members, do the following:

1) Send out a friendly invite each month to all my organizational members -- each one's user id is their email address.

2) Send me a monthly list of people who are not individual members so I can prod them in to becoming such.

3) Let me print a roster of only members who are organizational so i can ask the LD specialists, tutors, counselors and access technology specialists who work closely with my students to prod them as well.

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Hi Deborah,

Unfortunately we have very limited funding for engineering time that allows us to make upgrades and changes such as these.  Revamping the emails is definitely on our list as well as enhancing the process of managing a roster but I don't have any information yet on when we'll be able to push these items live.

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