Academic support is crucial for student success. As such, we need to be equipped with the best tools to serve today’s students. Otherwise, they’ll try to figure things out on their own, which is going to fail to meet the goals mentioned before since it is a lot for any one student to understand with everything else they need to manage.
Gen Z students especially expect modern technology to be integrated into our work.
The best practices here are mostly focused on augmenting the work we do already with digital tools. Often the tools we can use are means to help make it easier for personal interactions, not replace them. Studies show Gen Z is hungry for more face to face interactions.
Here are some ideas for you to enhance your academic support accessibility and adoption:
This is really the foundational tool you need. It will allow for students to easily to book time with staff and they can also choose a video call (which I’ll elaborate on next) or in person. It also avoids the awkward interruption of walk ins or missing someone when they aren’t in or available at that exact moment. You can also get notes on what you need beforehand so you can prepare for the meeting and also automatically send forms or documents to those who sign up for an appointment so it saves time when the meeting does occur. You can even have some flexibility in office hours availability to try to catch students in the evening. It’s all about optimization and making sure everyone has dedicated quality time to go over whatever is needed.
Video Calls & Text Messaging
In addition to the flexibility of time offered, we also need to offer different channels for communication. Sometimes, for students who commute or have a lot of commitments to juggle, meeting in person just isn’t an option. Video calls can be a great substitute with versatile functionality. You can screen share, use a white board function, record sessions, and share links to resources. It’s the next best thing to meeting on campus. Also, using text messaging tools to do outreach can be a useful method to catch students who are inundated with emails. Texts are best used for simple alerts and as a means to get students to register or book an appointment for example. Let them know it’s coming from their advisor or tutor and that they can refer to your email for a link to book time.
Another fundamental concept that should be seamless for students is making sure everything they access is mobile friendly. This means your websites, forms, and platforms adapt to mobile phones and tablets. Some students work primarily or only off these devices versus laptops or desktop computers. A lack of usability will deter a lot of people from accessing your services. Removing hurdles anywhere you can is crucial.
A final piece of this puzzle is having trained student staff to help with tutoring. This is highly beneficial since it can be intimidating to go to faculty solely for academic needs. Having more near peer support as well as building community on campus will be invaluable. It also helps give a meaningful student involvement opportunity for the tutors to build their resumé.
Gen Z in particular is well served by making these investments and adaptations to your services. On top of that, these sort of practices also help serve your commuters, adult learners, and online students. Better access serves everyone and makes sure that whatever resources they need are available in whatever way works best for them. The benefit in the end is increased student satisfaction and greater retention, which can make these investments subsidized if not paid for outright.