Technology has made the lives of today’s college students and professors much easier. Students can review and select classes online, instead of having to pick up a course catalog or phone in their choices. Professors can post course information on their Web site, page or portal for review, making it easier for students to access the information. Some courses are conducted online, allowing students to attend from any Internet connection.
Yes, technology has certainly made the learning process more efficient in many aspects. However, there still exists the need for one-on-one, in-person meetings to discuss student progress, career goals, academic reviews and advisement, counseling and other important items slot online. These sessions are important to a student’s academic career, and e-mail or online chat simply does not provide the focus or attention that an in-office meeting does.
With the exception of open-office hours offered by many professors, these meetings usually require appointments, and scheduling these appointments can be a tedious and time-consuming task, especially when administrators and staff must take time to answer the phone or e-mail message, check availability, and then manually record the appointment in a paper schedule book, spreadsheet, folder or other document. On the same token, not having an appointment process in place could create challenges for a professor’s open-office policy; there’s a good probability of both long spans between students or a line of students waiting to get in.
The biggest factor that makes appointment-scheduling such a burden to professors and administrators alike is how an appointment is taken. Calling in an appointment takes time, both for faculty and students. Sure, each call might only take a few minutes, but multiple this by dozens or hundreds of calls a collegiate department or office receive on a daily basis, and it soon turns into a full-time job for staff that already have a full plate of responsibilities. A few minutes may not be feasible for today’s busy students as well, especially if they’re unable to book their appointment during normal office hours. Plus, most of today’s students are unaccustomed to picking up the phone to make an appointment, as they’re used to conducting all of their tasks online.
The best way to automate and improve scheduling procedures, therefore, is to allow students to book their own appointments online and at their own convenience. That’s what makes an online appointment calendar so appealing to an assortment of different businesses and organizations, including colleges and universities. Whether it’s an academic office looking to book its sessions or a professor wishing to now require appointments when meeting with students, all it takes is a “Book Now” button on a Web site or social media page, such as Facebook or Twitter, to direct students to an online scheduler. Once there, a student will be able to view available days and times, select specific services (if applicable), and then book his or her appointment.
The system will then do the rest, without any additional action from the faculty member or administration. It will confirm the appointment, block off that slot from available times, and, in some systems, even send the student a confirmation e-mail or text message. Additionally, the user may also have the ability to schedule an automated e-mail or text message reminder sent to the student prior to his or her appointment time. (In addition to being a benefit to the student, these reminders can also significantly reduce the number of no-shows who fail to make their scheduled appointment times.)
Besides the convenience of online self-scheduling, an online appointment calendar also helps college administrators and professors better manage their students’ contact and appointment information by centralizing it in one secure, easy-to-access database. There’s no longer the need to juggle separate spreadsheets, folders and files. Users can quickly pull specific information right from their online scheduler calendar. Some online appointment calendars even offer standard reporting options, which take the legwork out of creating accurate and informative reports.
The functionality of an online appointment calendar undoubtedly sounds appealing to most college administrators and professors. However, some of these individuals may equate the term “software” with additional expenses, extra hardware and ongoing maintenance. In regards to cloud-computing technology, nothing could be further from the truth, as an online appointment calendar is an efficient and affordable solution with few requirements or monetary expenses.
Most online appointment calendar services are “pay-as-you-go”, with no long-term contracts. Additionally, they only require an Internet connection to use. There are no downloads, installations or pricey hardware necessary. The online appointment schedulers are accessible in the same manner as any Web site or e-mail service.
Like other cloud-based applications, an online appointment calendar is securely housed on an external server maintained by the service provider, who also oversees all ongoing maintenance, upgrades and updates to the program. This eliminates the need to involve a college’s internal IT department or contract out technical support.
Scheduling student appointments is not rocket science. It can, however, be a hassle and a burden without a proven process in place. An online appointment calendar is just what most college departments and professors need to improve this important daily task.