Many college and university learning centers are looking for the best way to streamline their operations. By far the most effective route is to implement a Tutor Management System. This is a software program designed to support your center’s practices and streamline many of your functionalities into one platform.
There are many options out there, including Engineerica’s cloud-based Accudemia program, and a lot of factors to consider when deciding which program will work best for your center. Ideally, you want something flexible that can support multiple types of student support centers but that still gives you all the tools your center needs.
Other considerations include whether to go with a cloud-based system that can be accessed from any computer (fast becoming the more popular option) or an application-based system (less popular but preferred by some campus IT for the control it allows).
You’ll also want to know how much autonomy students can have in terms of things like setting up their own appointments and accessing their attendance records and how much control you have to determine access for students and other stakeholders. At the end of the day, even if you and your staff will have to learn how to utilize the new system, you’re looking for something that will overall make everyone’s lives easier.
Let’s discuss some of the key factors to consider in a Tutor Management System and how these features make a TMS the best way to streamline your operations.
If your center offers appointments, likely the most important feature of a Tutor Management System is the appointments module and how much control you have over it. For example, if your center has a policy saying that appointments to your center can be thirty minutes long, you want a TMS that not only allows you to configure that but also makes it clear to students that their appointments will be that length. Without a TMS, appointment creation is often a chaotic process and one that is cumbersome for both students and tutors.
Many centers want to empower students to make their own appointments, but they can’t do that if the system doesn’t allow them to have control over what students can or can’t do. For example, suppose there are no limits on the number of appointments students can make within the system, even if the center’s policies do include limits.
In that case, they can easily monopolize a tutor’s time, and then the center staff will have to reach out to the student and manually make changes to their existing appointments. This is especially an issue with calendar scheduling programs not designed for tutoring centers; while a staff member can set their schedule, there’s often little control beyond that.
Some centers choose to use one system for scheduling appointments and another for tracking sessions, and for many reasons, we don’t recommend that option, particularly because you’ll have to do a lot of extra work to confirm that students are actually coming to their appointments, and it will make your reporting a lot more difficult.
Even if your center doesn’t offer appointments, you’ll still need to be able to manage your sessions and the data you and your tutors collect from them. Again, this is where a TMS, designed specifically for tutoring and other student services, comes in handy.
Before TMS, many centers were tracking with old-fashioned pencil and paper or with Excel spreadsheets, if they were tracking at all, but a TMS can track all of this information with just a few clicks, eliminating errors and the need for paperwork. Most centers will want to track time in and out, details about the student, the type of support they’re receiving, and the course they are getting help for.
Additionally, many centers want the option to track notes and various qualitative data. A good TMS will make it easy to track and report on all of these details and will additionally make it easy to configure your settings to track the information you need without making it difficult or cumbersome for the student to utilize the system.
Additionally, with more and more centers offering services virtually, it can become an even greater challenge to track both in-person and virtual sessions. Accudemia is a TMS that integrates with Zoom and can automatically track sessions held on most major virtual meeting platforms. You shouldn’t have to track in-person sessions in one system and virtual sessions in another; look for a TMS with the flexibility to offer both.
While tracking is arguably the main reason centers seek out a Tutor Management System, there are plenty of other features that these programs can offer that align with a tutoring center’s typical practices. For example, most centers need a way to communicate with students, and in response, many Tutor Management Systems, including Accudemia, offer this ability as well.
Communicating through a TMS helps keep important information, functionality, and records in one consistent place, making management of those communications easier than if they were sent through, for example, a third-party communication system or email.
There are typically two main kinds of communications that a TMS might aid in sending. The first are automated messages. This is especially helpful for centers that offer appointments because they will expect students and tutors to receive confirmations, reminders, notifications if appointments are canceled or rescheduled, and warnings about potential consequences if the student misses their appointment.
There also might be communications related to things such as surveys students need to fill out or referrals that have been assigned to them. Many systems offer calendar syncing as well, making it easy for tutors to manage their schedules.
Ideally, centers should have the option to send these messages via email or text, as different students may prefer to receive messages in different ways. If the TMS offers an app, then students and other users can receive push notifications through the app as well, making it even easier to ensure they receive these crucial messages.
The second kind of communication a TMS can help with is ad-hoc messages, which are messages that cannot be automated by the system from other processes but are sent or pre-scheduled as needed by a staff member.
These might include marketing messages, additional follow-ups before or after meetings, and notices about things like changes in center hours. A TMS should make it easy to send these messages. In general, look for programs that make it easy not just for you to communicate with your students, but for your students to communicate when they need help, and even ways for students to collaborate together.
Speaking of collaboration, you probably know that the tutoring session, ideally, shouldn’t always be the first time a tutor has seen a student’s work. Writing Centers, for example, can especially benefit from a student submitting their paper in advance for the tutor to review and prepare notes to discuss during the session. In other cases, a tutor may wish to share resources before or after a session to supplement the student’s learning experience. Or centers may wish to post materials for multiple students to access. A good TMS will make it easy for both students and tutors to share and retrieve these materials. Accudemia, for example, allows students, tutors, and admins to attach documents to appointments, asynchronous support tickets, and discussion boards.
Keeping these resources in your TMS makes it much easier to disseminate them to the right people at the right time, and it helps you keep track of who received what information and when. You, of course, can still distribute physical materials to students and offer them the ability to bring in physical copies of their work, but many students will appreciate the convenience of sharing and receiving information electronically.
One of the most important features to consider with a TMS is the ability to easily pull data that has been inputted, along with how easy it is to analyze that data. A good TMS should do as much of the legwork for you as possible. Due to the complex and varied needs of different tutoring centers, the reporting system should allow for data to be pulled in a variety of ways, with a variety of filters and export formats offered, as well as the ability to limit access to different kinds of data.
For example, while admins usually need access to all data, students usually do not need access to more than their own session and activity information. Many TMSs, such as Accudemia, also allow you to pre-schedule reports and have them sent to important stakeholders, making it even easier for users to access the data they need.
Beyond exporting reports, many TMS users like to see data at their fingertips through features such as dashboards. This is usually a small, customizable module, often on the TMS homepage, which allows users to see important data and gives them the option to view or export additional data if needed.
The dashboards generally differ for admins versus students or tutors. For example, an admin might have a dashboard that shows overall visit data for their center, but a student may only see their own activity, and a tutor may see activity relevant to their job, such as their upcoming appointments or recent sessions, which may need notes inputted.
As much as strategic planning, tutor and staff training, and other methods can help you manage your college or university tutoring center, a Tutor Management System is the best way to really streamline your operations. Accudemia is one of the most comprehensive TMS’s on the market, built over 20 years ago specifically to serve tutoring centers, with advanced, responsive tools to meet the needs of other types of student support services as well. If you want to learn more about how a TMS like Accudemia can streamline your operations and make the management of your center much easier, get in touch with us today.