Looking for an internet voice mail app for students

Sorry for the light blogging, but I’ve been trying to cram in a bunch of work this week so I can take next week completely off. (Summer classes start the week after that.) Today I’m prepping for my summer calculus course, and I have a question for the audience about a particular web service I need but can’t seem to find. 

The calculus class I am teaching this summer is in the evenings, and as far as I can tell all the students who are taking it are commuters. Normally, during the regular school year, I set up lots of office hours and have an open-door policy for students to come and get help when they need it. But since the class is in the evenings and I am staying at home with the kids during the day, and since the students won’t be on campus anyway except for my class, office hours are not really going to be the optimal way for students to get help. I’ll have office hours by appointment, but I can’t really be on campus for hours and hours each week. 

So I have email and IM available for students to use, but students aren’t always around a computer when they need help. But they are around phones all the time, so what I’d really like is to have some kind of voice mail service where students could call in their questions, and then I’d get to them when I could. Of course I have a phone at work, but like I said I am not going to be in the office much, and if they leave a voice message on that phone I may not get it until it’s too late — and we have no way of checking our voice mail off campus. (Or at least, I have no idea how to do it.) And I’m a little reluctant to give out my cell phone number to students, and really reluctant to give out our Vonage number we use at home, just because I’m kind of private and paranoid that way. 

What I am looking for is a service that: 

  • Lets students call in and leave a voice mail message on a server somewhere, which…
  • …I then listen to via the internet, and then…
  • …publish a response to the question via email or a return call. And, 
  • It needs to be cheap or free for me, and
  • Students should not need to sign up or register for anything — just dial a number on their phones and leave a message. 
I thought that Jott might do this, but I think only if every student signs up for a Jott account. I’m not opposed to that, but students might be, and it adds an additional layer of complexity. 
Anybody know of something out there that does all this? Surely the vast Web 2.0 application world has something that matches all these criteria, you’d think. 


Filed under Profhacks, Social software, Teaching, Technology

13 responses to “Looking for an internet voice mail app for students

  1. philosopherP

    Have you explored Vonnage’s website for an alternative… I wonder if you could set up a second phone number or something for a small price? Is there a way to forward your office phone to home?

  2. Maybe Google Talk? You can leave voicemail on that, of course, they would have to have a google talk account.

  3. virusdoc

    Robert wrote: “…students aren’t always around a computer when they need help…and if they leave a voice message on [my work] phone I may not get it until it’s too late.”

    Call me cynical, but aren’t you just trying to cater to students who only study at the last minute? Why complicate your life for those students?

    Anyone who is really studying as they go will have plenty of time to send an email and wait for a response before their question becomes urgent.

  4. You could purchase a Skype-In phone number, likely a local call since you are in the U.S. for something like $5 per month. The number rings on your PC or goes to voice mail, which you can check on Skype.

    I have used a phone number in St. Cloud, MN in the absence of Canadian phone numbers for over a year and am pretty pleased with the results (and most especially that the greedy, customer service challenged telcos have not benefitted in any way – except for an upgrade to my DSL service).

  5. @virusdoc: Actually I am trying to cater to the opposite kind of student — the one who has a question and *cannot* wait until just before classtime to get an answer. I want a student who, while they’re on their break at work or perhaps working late at night and encounter a question, can just call a number and leave a message.

    How did you get that I was trying to cater to last-minute studiers? You know me better than that!

  6. Phil

    May not be exactly what you are looking for, but have you checked out GrandCentral? It was bought out by Google a little while back. The idea is that you can get a phone number from them (for free) and then enter the phone number(s) that it should forward to. If you don’t answer, it allows users to leave messages which you can check online.

  7. @virusdoc: I think I see your point now that I’ve read your comment a few more times. Bear in mind that we are cramming an entire 14-week calculus class — which moves at a very fast clip even in that time frame — into an 8-week format. We meet Monday, Tuesday, and Thursdays for two hours at a shot, and we meet in the evenings in order to attract students who might be working during the day. So I can see a student for whom “working as they go” means that they are working on a homework set assigned on Monday night and trying to get it done before Tuesday night, but they have to work from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM, and maybe the only time they have to work is from 9:00-10:00 PM Monday night and on break at work. I want a student like that to be able to submit a question any time it occurs to them.

    In other words, the sheer pace of the course is going to make some studying behavior that would look like procrastination in a 14-week setting be appropriately paced here.

  8. Dave

    I would also recommend Grand Central (www.grandcentral.com). It’s free and will provide you with exactly what you are looking for I think.

  9. I’d like to recommend Grand Central yet again. 🙂

    I use it when I tutor larger groups of people or when I meet new people in classes who I don’t necessarily want to give a private cell phone number to just yet. You’ll be able to listen to voice mail messages online and all kinds of good stuff.

  10. virusdoc

    I understand better now. Thanks for the clarification.

  11. yes, Grand Central is the best 🙂

  12. Marie

    I signed up with 101Voicemail, and all I can say is that works wonderfully. Get to maximize the one-time fee – flat rate for only $8.50! try going to 101voicemail.com

  13. Carla

    I was the same predicament as you. A web based voice mail service is your best bet. I’m using 101voicemail and it works like a charm. It’s cheap and has a flat rate for unlimited use.