In 2014, Comments Boxes were installed in all of the faculty reception areas at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg in an attempt to solicit student feedback on all manner of university life. Little did anyone think the feedback system would enable the university management to crack down on racism among students.
It soon became evident that the Comments Boxes were being used as an outlet for racist remarks. Students would type their thoughts into the keyboard and these comments were being fed through into the Feedback Ferret text analysis engine. By drilling down into the comments themselves, the exact words and language used were visible to senior management.
As a result of the history of South Africa, racism is not tolerated in the public domain and is a serious offence. The University management took steps to find out who was leaving the comments as, not surprisingly, they did not identify themselves with their contact details. CCTV was installed overlooking the Boxes and by comparing the timings of the video footage with the timings of the comments, the offenders are quickly identified and held to account.
The Comments Box in the Fees and Financial Aid Reception area attracted a totally different type of feedback. Students were required to stand in long queues in this area and wait to fill out forms and seek advice on how to gain government funding for their education. As a result of the comments left via the Box, the university realised they needed a much better information flow for the students and have incorporated an advice line within their call centre. Students can explain in the Comments Box what their problem is and leave their contact details. A member of the call centre then calls them back with the information they require or sends them links to relevant websites that answer their questions. This cuts down waiting time and helps create awareness of the online information.
Carol Crosley, Registrar of the University, commented: “The information collected on these devices is proving invaluable to our daily operations. The Ferret dashboard and reports allow the University to easily and efficiently access, as well as understand, the feedback from both our current students and prospective applicants in a professional and well–designed format.”
Bronwyn O’Neill, Business Development Director of Feedback Ferret South Africa said: “The versatility of the Comments Boxes never ceases to amaze us. Who would have thought they could be used to stamp out racism in the student environment? We are delighted that they are helping to bust those responsible for such behaviour. It’s also great to see the Boxes being used at the other end of the spectrum – for positively helping inform and communicate with the students. Another great Ferret success story!”
The information collected on these devices is proving invaluable to our daily operations.
Registrar, University of Witwatersrand