Most college students have a need for academic or financial aid counseling at some point during their college career, whether to get help with course selection or to sort through GI Bill paperwork. Any of the 600 students at Wayland Baptist University’s Phoenix campus in need of this help used to have to spend a fair amount of time just setting up such a meeting.
First, they had to call the office’s administrative assistant to make an appointment. The assistant then needed to find time on the advisor’s schedule. The administrative assistants were spending six to eight hours a week fielding an average of 10 calls a day from students.
Once the 30- or 60-minute appointment was added to the advisor’s calendar, it was up to the student to remember the meeting time. Many did not. The missed appointments left the advisor with open blocks of time that could not be quickly filled. It was inefficient, to say the least.
Recognizing there had to be a better way, Campus Dean Glenn Simmons and his staff began investigating software solutions that could more easily coordinate schedules—with less human involvement. They found Appointment Plus, an online scheduling program that all but eliminated administrative assistants from the process and costs less than $50 per month.
Today, students themselves can schedule an appointment with an advisor through a link on the university’s home page or on the term schedules. “Appointment Plus allows us to load our own images, so it appears to be our own scheduling software,” says Simmons.
Advisors enter their schedules into the system, blocking off meetings and appointments and leaving slots available for meetings with students. “Students can then see what time is available and work things out according to their own time demands,” Simmons says.
The system also sends texts to student to remind them of their meetings. This feature has helped reduce missed meetings by as much as 60 percent, officials estimate.
Although administrative assistants can still get involved if a student is having difficulty finding time on an advisor’s calendar, the vast majority of meetings are scheduled online. As a result, online scheduling has increased everyone’s productivity. University personnel are now much more productive thanks to fewer missed meetings and students appreciate the ability to schedule their own appointments.
Appointment Plus’ low cost means that it pays for itself within the first week of each month. Wayland Baptist is saving close to $300 a month in labor costs, Simmons says.
But in addition to efficiency improvements, Wayland Baptist has seen other advantages as well. “We have seen two things take place,” says Simmons. “First, we see students who are more confident in us because our scheduling software is something most of our competitors do not have. Secondly, it has given our students a bigger sense of ownership of their program. We feel it helps them feel that they are in charge of things, rather than someone else.”