As I talk about student support with institutional leaders, it is becoming more clear that every institution will need to invest in one-stop student services. Certainly, a component of this is taking all administrative service functions that sit in a shared building with servicing counters and getting them online. But, the bigger need is creating a truly integrated student support experience—this will better assist the complex needs of today’s students.
As part of our ongoing research at Blackboard in building and managing one-stop support services, I interviewed three higher education leaders that shared their best practices and thoughts about the future of one-stops and how they will need to evolve from a physical support location to a multi-modal servicing arm of the institution.
These interviews highlight some common themes about how one-stop student services provide benefits for today’s learner:
- One-stops improve consistency of service and answers, improve student experience and better utilize overburdened staff.
- Catalysts such as student dissatisfaction and change of leadership can ignite one-stop projects.
- There are always intended and unintended benefits of such a big project as implementing a one-stop. With the focus on improving student service and support, the unplanned improvement in staff morale, capacity, and development were positive additional outcomes one experiences.
- Every school can benefit from streamlined and more integrated student support. First define your goals based on your unique situation and then design your approach accordingly.
- Both small and large institutions should leverage technology to meet the support needs of today’s students. Technology allows you to provide more convenience, consistency, and superior service than physical support locations.
Who We Interviewed:
Anne Valentine, Vice President of Student Experience and Customer Service at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana
Anne joined Ivy Tech to implement 16 one-stop express enrollment centers across the community college system to compliment their virtual Student Help Center. Ivy Tech is the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system.
Julie Selander, Director of One Stop Student Services & University Veteran Services at the University of Minnesota
Julie started Minnesota’s One Stop in 2000 and has worked in Student Accounts/Accounts Receivable, Billing, and Student Loans to name a few. Julie is also president of the Institute for Student Services Professionals.
Dennis Day, former Vice President of Student Success and Engagement at Johnson County Community College
He has more than thirty years of higher education experience and has developed an in-depth knowledge of divergent student service models. Throughout his time at JCCC, Dennis provided leadership for a new student experience model, implementation of web-based products, and construction of the new student center containing the Success Center, a model one-stop center visited by more than seventy colleges and universities.
Q: What Problems Did Your One-Stop Solve?
Anne Valentine: We needed to create a simpler and more consistent state-wide experience.We knew that we lost a lot of students in the enrollment process because it was too complex and siloed. We also knew that we wanted to create a uniform student experience— no matter which campus you went to in the state. One of our biggest pain points was around consistency. Students would receive inconsistent service and different answers, in particular around financial aid— even at the same campus. So we had a long way to go from both an individual campus and a statewide consistency perspective.
Julie Selander: At the University of Minnesota, a survey was launched to better understand student satisfaction. The results showed high levels of dissatisfaction with student support and difficulty in getting answers to basic questions. Students felt there was a lot of physical and virtual run-around. We agreed, and decided we needed to find a way to create a better streamlined experience for students and better leverage our staff resources and technology. We wanted to bring students from standing in line to online and allow students to leverage self-service technology where appropriate, but still create a place where students could have a high-touch, holistic counseling experience to help them with their student success.
Q: What Is the Catalyst for a One-Stop Strategy?
Julie: Our catalyst was the survey and the dissatisfaction about waiting in long lines for service. It was a big issue for students and was impacting their need to focus on their academic objectives. It became a part of our one-stop mission statement to provide quality professional service in support of their academic and financial objectives.
Dennis Day: A change of leadership is a common catalyst, especially if the new leadership has experienced or heard about a one-stop service center. If the school is striving for accountability measures and/or business process evaluation, a one-stop strategy will often come up. If the institution is looking to improve efficiencies and convenience, a one-stop strategy is a possible solution. Evaluations, like in Julie’s case (U of Minnesota), are also always a good driver. When a President walks by and sees long lines that is going to cause a push for better services to the students.
Q: What Are the Benefits of a One-Stop Student Services Center for the Institution?
Dennis: Most expect for the student experience to be improved from consolidating various support functions. One of the biggest benefits of implementing a one-stop is improved staff experience. Offices want to be successful when they work with students. One-stops provide students with either the answers or the tools to get the answers so they can be self-sufficient. Students want to be self-sufficient and their satisfaction levels go up, their needs go down, and the staff feels appreciated and the staff embraces the insurmountable change. It is not always easy to get your staff to see the benefits of a one-stop at first thought. Another big benefit I’ve seen is time—time for students and staff and the institution. Institutions have time to do more strategic projects or dive deeper into current projects once a one-stop strategy is implemented.
Julie: The staff experience wasn’t a primary focus of our effort, the focus was on improving the student experience, but an unexpected benefit definitely is the improved work environment for staff. We were worried how our former silo operations would come together as a new central team, but it was amazing how our team bonded and embraced our new unified goal and mission. Time was also a huge benefit. We were able to expand the scope of our one-stop staff and professionalize the position because of increased efficiency and now can provide enhanced student services including student degree progress initiatives, financial wellness training, and more. With the technology taking care of simple, general questions, our staff was able to better focus on students with complex issues.
Anne: Time turns into capacity to do things at a scale you couldn’t do before. You can answer phones when someone calls. Before our one-stop, students would call during peak enrollment time, 50% would give up, and the other 50% would wait an average of 19 minutes to talk to a human. With Blackboard handling the majority of our calls, the wait time is now averaging 30 seconds. We can help students with complex questions when they walk in. We can launch outbound campaigns and better connect with students on a consistent basis.
Dennis: Many folks create a one-stop to connect with students in a transactional way by taking in forms or performing other manual operations. Through the efficiencies of the change to a one-stop, it allows the college or university to go into new relational opportunities with students.
Q: Should All Institutions Consider Developing and Integrated Service Approach?
Dennis: Different institutions have different personalities and different needs. Each institution’s one-stop student services will be slightly different as a result. Larger institutions are looking for convenience and service. They want more transactions completed in shorter amounts of time using less people. Smaller institutions stand up one-stops as a competitive advantage. They want to create a better student experience. Both small institutions or large will need to leverage technology.
Julie: There is no cookie cutter model. You have to think about what are your pain points and what problems you are trying to solve. In our case, students felt like they were a number and wanted to feel like a person that had a connection with the institution. It was imperative that we provided that.
Check back here for a continuation of our interviews and discussions about one-stop student services—we will focus on important considerations for your one-stop strategy. Visit us to learn more about Blackboard’s One-Stop Student Services solution.