For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Rachel Cook, the new Customer Success Manager for Accudemia. I make sure clients are running our systems smoothly and that they’re taking full advantage of what Accudemia has to offer (hint: it’s a lot!).
This isn’t my first rodeo with Engineerica. I previously worked with AccuCampus and AccuSQL clients as an implementation specialist. It’s also not my first dive into higher education, as I spent six years as a learning center manager for two different community colleges. I love working in higher ed and I love that my job at Engineerica keeps me informed of all the latest trends and best practices in the field, plus I’m able to help so many centers and institutions serve their students better.
Since returning to Engineerica and taking on this new role, I’ve met with over 50 of our amazing Accudemia clients. I’ve learned a lot about the state of higher education in these turbulent times and exactly how our software can be leveraged to help colleges and universities navigate it.
Below are some of the things I have learned.
1) Making Things as Easy as Possible for Students is a Must!
Prior to COVID, I could count on one hand the number of clients and centers that offered virtual assistance. Those that did usually outsourced it to a company that specialized in offering tutoring and other services over a virtual platform, such as Tutor.com, and kept their in-house staff doing in-person support. In general, online assistance was not considered a priority and was avoided for a number of reasons: it was inferior to in-person assistance, it was harder to set up and support, or it wasn’t what students wanted.
But as we all know, once COVID hit, for most institutions, making tutoring and other services virtual ended up being the only way most students could take advantage of services at their college or university. And now almost all of my clients have at least some virtual options for students if they haven’t gone online completely. They are taking advantage of recent Accudemia improvements such as Zoom integration, virtual sign-in stations, and virtual waiting lines; for many, there has been little to no interruption of their services thanks to these features.
The benefits of offering online services reach beyond the COVID crisis. For example, students who previously may have had difficulty making it to campus, because of a disability or lack of childcare or any other reason, can now be accommodated. It also allows areas such as tutoring centers to expand their pool of applicants when hiring, as they can now accommodate employees who can’t make it to campus either. Overall, most schools have learned a truth that may seem obvious now but for many was once elusive: when you make services easier for all students to access, everybody wins.
2) Even Long-Term Users Aren’t Aware of Everything We Offer
Engineerica began several decades ago with a simple goal: to allow college and university tutoring centers to easily keep track of who is using their resources, without needing to keep track of a piece of paper or an Excel spreadsheet. Over time, this system grew to keep up with the needs of and suggested improvements from users and staff. We added appointments, surveys, extra reports, and so much more. Accudemia is always growing and improving with new developments.
If you think there’s a lot for users to keep up with, you’re right! While our sales and support teams try to provide a rundown of all available features during the pre-sale and implementation periods, it’s not always possible for users to remember everything. Sometimes, Accudemia is purchased by a different party than the one who will ultimately end up using it, or its management changes hands at the institution, and the new point person hasn’t had time to be trained.
I’ve met with clients who have only been using Accudemia for a few months, and clients who have been using it for years, and one thing that surprised me was how many of them-even long-time users-didn’t know everything that Accudemia has to offer. That’s why I’m so glad to conduct these Customer Success meetings, which allow me to get to know the institution and center and enable me to run down the features that might be most useful to the client. Many times, they express surprise that a function they were performing outside of Accudemia, such as surveys, could actually be conducted in Accudemia, and that this feature is included in their subscription!
If you’re an Accudemia user who hasn’t met with me yet, I can guarantee that there is at least one feature I can tell you about that you didn’t know was in there. And if you’re not an Accudemia client, this should motivate you to schedule a call with our sales team, so you can learn more about everything the system has to offer, and how easy it could make life for you, your staff, and your students.
3) Students Are Starting to Get Burnt Out on Virtual Options...
As mentioned earlier, so many schools realize the value and necessity of offering virtual services to students during this time. But as the pandemic drags on and the end date is uncertain, an unfortunate emotional side effect has emerged. While some schools are finding their numbers have increased during this time or at least stayed steady, even more are seeing that student visits are starting to drop off. Zoom fatigue is a real thing, both in and out of higher education. Simply put, we’re tired of sitting in front of computer screens.
The good news is, now that we know more about COVID, many schools are able to adopt strategies for in-person services that keep students and staff safe. For some, though, the space and equipment requirements for a safe face-to-face interaction may not be an option right now. Other schools are simply forbidden by their institution or state legislatures from holding in-person services.
Although I’m no expert on COVID or mental health, I have been working remotely for the past year and with my experience working with students, I would say one of the most important things you can do during this time to support your students is just do your best to reach out to them. Even if they don’t show up to virtual meetings or workshops, it doesn’t mean they don’t want your help. Keep them as informed as you can of your plan to return to in-person services, and reiterate what services are available to them and how they can access them. Accudemia has built-in communication tools to assist with this that don’t require your students to log into the system.
Don’t be surprised if you find your staff is also getting burnt out by all the virtual work. As much as it can be convenient, it can also be stressful and exhausting! This is where things like Accudemia’s reports and surveys can come in handy. They can show your staff the impact they are having on student success. Talk to your Institutional Research department and see if they can help you see if there’s a correlation between student visits to your area and an improvement in grades or a higher likelihood to succeed. This won’t just help your students see the value of seeking out your area even in difficult times; it will keep you and your staff motivated and assured that you are doing the right thing by remaining open however you can.
4) ...but they’re probably not going away
I’ve sent out surveys to Accudemia clients and have received 65 responses. Of those respondents, 87% said their centers are offering at least some virtual options for students to access their services. When I actually sat down with these clients, only two said they do not anticipate keeping virtual options once it becomes safe to re-open in person with normal capacity. Even those who reported their numbers went down as a result of going virtual, or who believe their students prefer in-person support, know that offering a variety of access options is likely in the best interest of all students.
The question for these centers then becomes, how to best support students so that they get the highest quality support no matter which option they choose? Already I’m hearing concerns from some center managers who want to be sure students understand if they’re signing up for online or in-person support, and they aren’t sure whether they should prioritize students who request in-person assistance.
Fortunately, your Accudemia system is set up to handle both in-person and virtual tutoring, and yes, it can offer these simultaneously. When it comes to best practices on the ground, as your Customer Success Manager I can help talk you through your options and share the experiences of other clients, many of whom already offer a hybrid of in-person and virtual options for students. The world has changed a lot over the past year, and it’s going to continue to change for a while. One thing you don’t need to worry about is whether you can track the students who use your services. The answer is always yes!
5) Flexibility is getting us (all) through this
It’s become increasingly clear over the past year that we need to rise to meet the differing needs of each passing day, and the key to that is flexibility. I remember working in higher education and feeling like policies trumped everything else. In fact, in one Writing Center, I managed, we thought our policies were so important that we printed them on huge posters and hung them up in every breakout room!
I don’t want to imply that rules are never important. They absolutely can be! But too often, and I say this from my own experiences, I think many of us sometimes fall into the trap where we unknowingly deny students the help they need or want because we were more concerned with following policy. Why do we do that? I think it’s a combination of wanting students to understand that rules matter and that they’ll be held accountable to them in the “real world,” and also wanting to protect ourselves and our staff from being taken advantage of.
The flexibility I’m talking about isn’t just pivoting to offer virtual support options, though of course, that’s a huge part of it. When faced with a collective crisis, we recognize that the “rules” are sometimes holding us back. For many, this flexibility came in the form of suddenly being able to access services virtually from home that had once only been available in person. For some student service centers, it meant being able to access services more often than before, or on an appointment basis when previously they might have to wait for a walk-in. It often meant more forgiveness and understanding for students who were late, or unable to make it to their scheduled time.
Flexibility isn’t just a kindness in these times; many have found it to be a necessity, the key that is helping us survive this challenge both emotionally and academically. I think many of my clients have learned that it isn’t just something to be used in times of crisis, but a consideration that should be front and center when addressing any concern.
I hope that by sharing with you some of the valuable insight I’ve gotten over the past few months, you have a better idea of how to help your students, and how a system like Accudemia can help as well. You’re probably doing better than you think you are in your quest to help students!
Accudemia can help! Contact me today so I can show you how.
Customer Success Manager
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