University of Illinois Video Case Study

Watch this customer case study video where the University of Illinois describes why they chose MangoApps.

The University of Illinois had a non-profit organization dedicated to helping inmates receive an education, known as the Education of Justice Program (EJP). EJP wanted to find an effective way to keep all staff members interconnected and capable of sharing information with one another.

After doing extensive research to find the right fit for their program, EJP chose MangoApps for its usability and the inclusive community it provides for their team.

In this video, you will learn how the University of Illinois used MangoApps to:

  1. Encourage workers to log on and participate in their online community
  2. Share time-sensitive information with others in a quick, reliable way
  3. Build a successful and supportive community of people despite not sharing the same physical space


Full video transcript:

Rebecca Ginsburg, Associate Professor and Director:

“The Education Justice Project is a unit of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champagne. We’re here in Central Illinois, about two and a half hours south of Chicago.

The challenge for us since we started nine years ago, has always been how do we stay connected? We don’t occupy the same building. We don’t come together at a general meeting once a month. How is it that we can stay connected and share information with one another? And it’s not just a matter of convenience. Sometimes we have to convey very time-sensitive, urgent information that might have to relate, for example, to conditions in the prison. Maybe there’s a lockdown, maybe a class or an event has been canceled.

Also, because we’re traveling back and forth a lot between campus and the Danville Correctional Center, which is about 45 minutes away on a freeway, we often have to convey information about weather conditions, traffic, or accidents on the freeway. So it wasn’t proving successful or effective to develop phone trees or even email. On some occasions, of course, it makes sense to pick up the phone, but on other occasions, you want to be able to quickly and effectively know that you are reaching the people that you need to be in touch with.

Before we chose MangoApps, we looked at a lot of other different companies that offered similar sorts of services. We were also very concerned about the cost. We are a unit of the University of Illinois, which is one of the biggest universities in the country, probably in the world. So people are often surprised to learn that we’re not a wealthy unit of the University of Illinois that’s flush with funds. Ease of use for an intranet system, because many of the people that come to EJP, or a good portion of the people that come to EJP are retired teachers. They care a lot about teaching, but they may not be super savvy about technology. So we wanted to implement a system that was going to be easy for everybody to use, very low bar to entry. It wouldn’t discourage people from logging on. And after a lot of looking, that’s when we decided that MangoApps was the best service for us.

Mango is the place where our members go to meet one another. And by that I mean because you’re not going to run into anybody in the staff room or the coffee shop, you can go to Mango to see who the members are, to read their profiles, to see their photographs, and to understand better the people with whom you’re forming this community that is EJP. So it’s a very easy thing for new members to join. And they have a lot of incentives because of the features that Mango offers.

We refer to visiting a post, an announcement, or a document that might be on our MangoApps site as going to Mango Land. So within the Education Justice Project, because we don’t all work together in the same building or in the same office, we think of Mango Land as the place where we meet.”

Jamie Hines, EJP Operations Manager:

“As I started to use it more and more, just because of the position that I’m in and having to interact with all of the groups that we have on there, I realized how incredibly thankful I was that we had that because much like social media platforms, you’re able to get all of the people that you need to get like that, which is wonderful. A lot of times we use it for troubleshooting, at least I do personally, where if I need somebody to be an escort for someone at the prison that night, then that’s where I put out the call to all of our members.

And it’s just so much easier because I don’t have to try to type in 75 plus names into an email, which is ridiculous. And I would be very mad if I had to do that every single time, or let them know very quickly the prisons were on lockdown. Anybody that’s supposed to go out for programming today, make sure you call the prison first before you make the 45-minute drive.”

Steve Sherman, Professor:

“The forum is what I use most. But I do appreciate that we can send and receive and put up files. I know that there’s actually a newsletter that we run, that EJP runs, and our students write, edit, and there’s a coordinator who’s someone on the outside. And so we’re able to sort of archive all of those on Mango Land, which is really wonderful because again, that prevents we don’t have to use… We can use Mango for everything. We don’t have to use Mango just for messaging and then Box or Dropbox for file sharing. We can just put everything within the Mango Universe.”

Stan Yanchus, EJP Writing Partner:

“Oh, MangoApps actually, it serves an extremely important purpose with EJP. One, it helps. One of the things I do as a writing tutor, is I’m helping students work on papers for their academic classes. So the instructors post on Mango, “This is what we did last week. This is the assignment that’s out there. It’s coming up.” And since we have so many volunteers, it coordinates that. So I look at that, I go on Mango and look at the instructor post and sometimes print them out.

Perhaps even more important is it brings EJP together. Again, we’re a large number of volunteers, primarily, and busy people all doing different things. And so you know what other people are doing, and there’s that shared purpose of the mission. And so it really gives you a sense of the depth and the scope of our organization and the work we do.”

Rebecca Ginsburg, Associate Professor and Director:

“After each event that we hold at the prison, each activity, each course, each workshop that we hold at the prison, we ask the EJP members who were involved in that activity to go to Mango Land and write a short post about how the activity went and whether we need to know anything, whether we should be aware of anything that went wrong.

You’ll be surprised to know that hosting a program, or running a program in a prison, there are many, many things that could go wrong. Often these things are time sensitive and we need to know sooner rather than later if there’s anything that we need to be aware of. We also want to know when things go wonderfully well. We want to know if a certain student who has been quiet in course suddenly blossomed in a particular activity.

They leave the prison and they write a short paragraph of how the event went on Mango, and then people will respond to it. “Oh, I’m so glad that workshop went well. I’m so excited for you.” Or, “Great. I’m glad to know that students really enjoyed that guest speaker. I thought they would.” It’s the most important, and the primary medium through which our instructors, our workshop facilitators, the tutors, and others who are offering academic programming at the prison communicate with themselves.

So that’s one primary use. But then there’s a secondary use, which is to be in touch with one another and to share information with one another. So for example, if one of us is teaching a course this semester on something to do with incarceration or criminal justice, we might share our syllabus over Mango because people have an interest in that. We have a book group within EJP, and they’ll share information about that activity. We have a research group within EJP. We’ll share information and documents related to that activity. So it’s also a depository of documents and resources that our members are likely to find useful.

Every semester we bring on new EJP members. Most of our members are familiar with Facebook. And if you have some familiarity or ease with Facebook, it’s a very low bar to becoming comfortable with using Mango.”

Jamie Hines, EJP Operations Manager:

“The nice thing is, just like I experienced, most people don’t need help on figuring out how to use it, because it is very intuitive and user-friendly. I actually can’t even recall a time when I’ve had to sit down with someone and say, “This is how you use this.” So it’s been very easy for our members to figure out.”

Steve Sherman, Professor:

“Very intuitive. The desktop interface was very intuitive, and very usable. I created a profile really quickly. I put my picture on it. I signed up for alerts and it was easy peasy.”

Jamie Hines, EJP Operations Manager:

“I really like that we can have different groups because we have so many members that are spread so far apart, not even just in Champagne Urbana, or on campus, but even in neighboring states, that we’re able to compartmentalize that way. And I can send specific messages to specific groups. I really love that.”

Rebecca Ginsburg, Associate Professor and Director:

“A few things that I really value about MangoApps, the first is the ability to like comments. I’m on Mango a lot. I don’t have the time to write a comment each time I read a post, but I can like it. And it’s a quick way of letting people know that I appreciate them, that I do like that the work, and appreciate the work and acknowledge the work that they do. Another thing I really like about MangoApps is the facility to post photographs and profiles of our members, for them to post the profiles and photographs of themselves to allow us to get to know them better, and for our members to get to know one another.”

Stan Yanchus, EJP Writing Partner:

“I post. I’ll go in and we’ll write posts of my summaries of the session that I’ve facilitated. Or if I’ve served as a writing tutor, then I will go ahead and talk about the students I work with, and the various things where they’re at. So I know the instructions and everything. And then I’ll make the post. When I read other posts, I will give some feedback and other people, whether it’s the emoji or whether it’s a short comment, ‘Thanks for sharing.’”

Rebecca Ginsburg, Associate Professor and Director:

“I log in many times a day to Mango Land. I visit Mango Land many times a day, and I usually visit through my computer, because I’m most comfortable on my computer and on my laptop quite a lot. But sometimes I go through my iPad, sometimes through my phone.”

Jamie Hines, EJP Operations Manager:

“I log in every day, multiple times a day, just because I do take care of the operations here. So anytime somebody posts something, I need to know whether it’s just I’m talking about my experience at the prison, or I need help with something, and it could be something that I need to attend to. So anytime one of those messages comes through that I get a notification that somebody posted then I’ll go check that out.

Most of the time during the day when I’m here and I’m on my desktop, then I’ll just use the desktop version of that. But I discovered that there was an app for my phone and it literally changed my life because I have been trying to go on my web browser on my phone and trying to do it that way. I’m like, “This is a pain in the butt.” And then somebody mentioned, “You know they have an app, right?” Like, no, I didn’t know that. So now I have the app on my phone and it makes doing posts and replying to people’s posts so much easier when I’m off the clock.”

Stan Yanchus, EJP Writing Partner:

“I log in daily. So I use my computer primarily when I go on the site and I’ll log in. So I’ll log in directly from Mango, But usually, I’m coming off a link. I go into my email and then look at the post the people sent to the email. And then I just hit the post and then I log in through, transition through that way.”

Rebecca Ginsburg, Associate Professor and Director:

“I’m very happy that EJP has access to a solution like MangoApps. I don’t know what we would do without it. We would not be able to effectively do the work that we do without having MangoApps as an integral part of our community. A place, literally Mango Land is a place where we go to connect with one another and to support one another.”

Jamie Hines, EJP Operations Manager:

“Thinking about today, I was trying to imagine what it might be like if we didn’t have Mango to communicate with all of our members. And it did not bring pleasant thoughts to mind. So yes, I’m very grateful for it. I love how easy and how quick it is for me to reach all of our members and when I have so much to do, saving any kind of time is a bonus for me. So yes, I very much, I love it.”

Rebecca Ginsburg, Associate Professor and Director:

“The MangoApps team has been really responsive. Whenever we have issues or concerns. There are a few things, in fact, there’s one of them, oh, I’m really feeling guilty now that you mentioned it because I’m supposed to be contacting somebody to solve this particular problem. And I don’t worry about that, because I know that when I pick up the phone and ask for help, we get help right away. I have to say that we don’t do it very often. We haven’t run into a lot of glitches. It’s not as though I or our operations manager is once week contacting the MangoApps team to troubleshoot because it’s a pretty easy and user-friendly system. But whenever we do run into challenges that we haven’t encountered before, we get responses right away and we’re very grateful for the great help we get.

I would encourage, and I have encouraged other nonprofits to use Mango. It’s been easy for us to use. When we first set up as Mango subscribers, there was very little time that it took us to get up and running and implementing Mango within the Education Justice Project. The support has been great. It’s been a wonderful and very necessary. It’s been a wonderful way for us to connect with one another. There’s no downside. It’s hard to imagine how organizations like EJP, that rely on volunteers who are dispersed throughout the community, could manage without something like MangoApps at their disposal.”

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