BlackBoard Connect

Blackboard Connect - Mass Communications Tool

The district has a valuable tool to communicate with parents, students and staff at a moments notice. The district has been using  the Blackboard Connect rapid communications system, formally known as AlertNow, for a few years. Blackboard Connect gives the district the capability to send voice, text, and email messages within minutes to telephones or any Internet-enabled device, including mobile phones and computers.


Frequently Asked Questions about Blackboard Connect

How will Blackboard Connect be used?

The Blackboard Connect system will be used by the district to send important messages quickly to parents/guardians, students and staff. These messages can be sent by phone and/or email about emergency situations or school delays or closings due to inclement weather.  Messages can also be sent to alert parents, students or staff about important events, testing schedules, open houses, field trips and more.

Do I need to register or sign-up to receive automated messages?
No.  If you are a parent/guardian, student or staff member in the West Mifflin Area School District, you will automatically receive messages the district sends out via the BlackBoard Connect.

How will parents/guardians receive notifications?
As a parent/guardian, there are different ways messages will be delivered to you.

- For non-emergency messages, you will receive a telephone call most likely to your home phone.
- In the event of a school emergency, in addition to the call to your home, you will receive a call to the various phone numbers listed on your child's registration form.
- In addition to receiving messages via telephone, you may receive messages via email, if the district has an email address on file for you.

The BlackBoard system has the capability of calling five of your phone numbers (home, alternate or cell, and work) and sending messages to up to five different email accounts for parents/guardians identified as residing with the students or identified as receiving copies of student reports. Multiple phone numbers and email addresses will only be used to notify you during a school emergency.

How will I know that I have received a message?
- Your Caller ID will display the school's or district's main number.
- BlackBoard will leave a message on any answering machine or voicemail.

What if the line is busy or there is no answer?

BlackBoard will make up to four attempts to reach each number, with three minutes between each call. If there is no answer after the fourth attempt, the system will consider that a failed call. If you are aware of a message that was not delivered to your number, please contact your school.

How does the BlackBoard system know the difference between a live person and an answering machine?
The system uses Advanced Machine Detection (AAMD) software.  This software allows the system to start the message immediately after the phone is answered while listening for interruptions. If the system is not interrupted with the first 3.5 seconds, the message is delivered in its entirety. If the system detects a greeting longer than a few seconds, it treats this as an outgoing message from an answering machine and will wait for a pause before beginning the message.

Why do I only receive half or part of the message on my answering system?
Your machine or answering service through your telephone provider may only record a portion of a message if your greeting is sporadic with varied periods of silence.  This may be mistaken for a live answer and the message will start playing before your outgoing message has finished.

My Caller ID shows the school or district called but there is no message.  Why?
The Blackboard Connect system plays the message as soon as the phone is picked up or answered. However, errors can occur if the person repeatedly says "hello" or answers in a noisy environment (i.e. traffic, children playing, loud music or television, dogs barking, etc.). Generally, if a person offers an extended greeting such that it overlaps the Blackboard Connect message, the system pauses, waits for silence, and replays the message from the beginning.

With background noise, it is possible that the system is unable to detect the end of the "greeting" and thus the message did not initiate. In a noisy environment, call recipients can press any number (1-9) and the message will play from the beginning without interruption.

Are there other reasons a message may not be left on my answering machine?
The system is set to ring each line six times. If your answering machine or voicemail system is set to pick up on seven or more rings, the message may not be delivered.

I have more questions, who should I contact?
If you need to change your phone number or email address to receive messages, please contact your child's school office.

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