Sometimes increasing efficiency requires cross-functional teams, complex software solutions, and weeks of training and implementation. And sometimes it’s as simple as replacing a clipboard and sign-in sheet with a commonly used program, such as Microsoft Excel.
When he came to Wake Technical Community College (N.C.) two years ago, adviser and student services specialist Tom Manning was surprised to see that the Advising Department logged student appointments manually. Each month, an assistant would collect all of the sign-in sheets and enter the data—date, student’s name, program of study, time signed in, time seen by an advisor, and adviser’s name—into a spreadsheet. “I saw a lot of duplication of data entry,” he says. “I saw the collecting of all the paper and then making time at the end of the month to go through and manually calculate all of that and then manually enter it into a spreadsheet to print it out and have something to show. I thought there was an easier way to do this.”
Manning approached his boss, advising and retention dean Kevin Brown, and suggested the clipboard be scrapped. Information could be entered directly into Excel at the moment of sign-in. With the data immediately accessible and able to be more easily manipulated, the Advising Department could predict student traffic, retrain advisers to meet student demand levels, and more effectively predict and plan for staffing needs on monthly and yearly bases.
Before Manning’s solution, the department was spending 96 hours a year compiling student data; using five to six reams of paper annually for the sign-in sheets; and hamstrung by the limitations of the data that was collected. Under the new system, more than 80 hours a year will be saved in staff time, paper will be eliminated, and the quantity and quality of data are considerably higher.
Implementation and use of the spreadsheet model proved so successful, it spread to other areas of the Student Services Division. Several satellite campuses and the counseling department signed on, and the data entered on spreadsheets there is linked directly to Wake Tech’s master data file.
“One of the things I really like about using any type of data capture like this is you’ve entered it once,” Manning says. “Once the data is in, you can query [it] and can get more robust information out of it than if you just have a list of numbers of how many people signed in.”
Brown readily admits that he needed to be talked into trying the spreadsheet. He’s glad he agreed to Manning’s request.
“The big lesson I took was to utilize people’s talents and not be afraid of data,” he notes. “It’s something that, with minimal cost, we can maintain and use for years to come.”