A New Student Services Role?

Does every University need a Course Concierge?

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently had a piece about the development of the idea of the ‘Course Concierge’. The label seems to have been assigned to Paul Neill title who is director of the core curriculum at the University of Nevada at Reno, by the students there. He’s the one they contact when they can’t get into a class they need and sorts it out for them:

A few years ago, officials at the university decided that they had to do more to reduce the hassles of registering for courses. They imagined a kind of registration czar, someone who could communicate well with faculty members but who had the authority of an administrator. Mr. Neill, a faculty member who works in the provost’s office, fit the bill.

Someone else's student services centre

Some other institution’s student services centre

Soon Nevada was promoting Mr. Neill as the course concierge, the man advisers and students could turn to when stuck. Each semester, he helps 50 to 60 students solve their scheduling problems, working one on one with those who need a particular course to graduate, or who have trouble getting into classes they must take in a sequence. Often he creates a spot in a class that’s full, or steers students to suitable alternatives.

“In the past, it was often left up to the student and the professor to see who could get in where,” Mr. Neill says. “It was very informal.”

Even in times of plenty, students often learn a tough lesson when they register for courses: You can’t always get what you want. In this era of budget cuts, however, students on some campuses have scrambled to get not only the courses they would like but also those they need for their majors and to satisfy core requirements.

 

Whilst in many ways it seems like a solution to a problem more likely to be encountered on US campuses, the idea of providing additional assistance to students in this way is an interesting one. A contact of last resort on course matters might be a really valuable addition to student services offerings.

Really not sure about the title though.

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Preparing for university: “we call this a washing machine”

Some new students need ‘life skills’ it seems

According to the Times “pampered pupils” are receiving lessons in life skills to enable them to cope at university:

Increasing numbers of privileged students are arriving at university unable to use a washing machine, cook a simple meal or look after themselves, according to head teachers and academics. Teenagers have become so used to someone else picking up after them at home or in boarding school that they lack the basic skills needed to survive when they start their degree. One boarding school is so concerned that pupils will not be able to cope at university that it is sending sixth-formers to live in self-contained cabins.

Unlike boarders at other schools, sixth-formers at Abbotsholme in Staffordshire, where fees are £25,000 a year, do their own washing, ironing, cleaning and cooking. Steve Fairclough, the headmaster, said it helped to prepare them for the realities of university. “Independent schools, if they are not careful, can institutionalise kids and give them a silver spoon so they expect things to be done for them,” he said. “These cabins give them a bit of independence.”

This sounds like a major problem and one which has yet to be adequately addressed by many student services centres. It is time something was done.

Outsourcing Student Services

Interesting and slightly scary blog post in the Chronicle on the opportunities for outsourcing student services in US higher education. As one person interviewed puts it: “It’s almost taking the people out of it”.

Some of the wonderful products on offer include:

  • Rave Wireless lets students set cellphone timers that alert campus police if they do not arrive at their destinations. “We call it putting a blue-light telephone in everyone’s pocket,” said Robert Jones, Rave’s director of marketing.
  • University Parent produces printed guides, Web sites, and electronic newsletters for college parents.
  • Lifetopia tells colleges it will help them “put people in their place” — with a Web site where students can create profiles and select their own roommates.
  • CourseScheduler offers software to help students choose classes at hours they can handle. Otherwise “they’re just going to slap something together” — at the risk of burning out if their schedules are unmanageable, said Michael Smyers, a recent graduate of Kansas State University who founded the company.

And this is the best:

  • With Snoozester, students can request wakeup and reminder calls, such as to start studying for a test a week in advance. This product particularly frustrated some administrators. “People have just stormed away,” said Neville Mehra, the company’s chief executive. But most absences from class, he said, are a result of oversleeping.

Just what we’ve all been waiting for.