If you look up “what are student services” you will be directed, firstly, to its definition, followed by a list of higher ed institutions that offer these services. There is no question that most (if not all) colleges and universities offer some sort of health services, career planning, mental health services and tutoring services, to name a few. While these are great resources to have, it is hard to measure whether or not student services (as they are currently offered) actually help students as much as we’d hope. Since 73% of students will suffer a mental crisis while in college, it is crucial that the assistance institutions provide is actually helping remedy the problems that today’s students are facing.
Intent vs. Impact
If you do another search, this time: “what makes student services effective?”, the pool of answers becomes more diluted and obscure, with little mention on outcomes. One way higher ed institutions can determine whether or not their services are creating the intended impact is through the use of KPIs. By determining the relative effectiveness and efficiency, KPIs give us the ability to pick out and alter the elements of a service that may not be working.
Students that ask for help but don’t get any useful assistance run the risk of abandoning their studies altogether. Combine the cost of attrition with the cost of support services, and it becomes hard to justify funding programs that can not quantify impact. While we could just ask students if their problems were solved, the longer we wait to obtain this feedback, the more adulterated their responses become; maybe the student will have already left by the time you release the survey, maybe they forgot the name of the person who helped them, maybe their issue was resolved by an outside source rather than the service itself, or maybe the student just doesn’t like surveys.
Ignorance is Not Bliss
By adopting a platform built on personalizing the student experience, higher ed institutions are able to meet students where they are: on mobile. However, in order for your platform to be able to measure the success of your campus’ student services, it must have end-to-end assessment functionality. This means you can track which student attended which service, as well as which service provider was accessed. If you see that “Advisor A” solved 100% of the problems students sought help for, but “Advisor B”only solved 30% of his/her cases, then you would have successfully identified a possible problem area, and could begin determining a solution.
In order to get these types of statistics, your platform must also have the ability to send out and receive immediate feedback. Having a platform that sends a quick, point-of-service question immediately after the student checks out of their appointment is a great way to make sure your students are getting the most out of student services.
Are students that need help actually asking for help?
Short answer? No. (at least, not explicitly)
Like anybody providing a service, sometimes you have to seek out your client-base and understand their implied needs/challenges. The ability to identify at-risk students (i.e. students who have not attended any events this year) is an incredibly useful tool. This functionality gives the administrator important insight, especially since students who do not engage with their campus show a higher rate of attrition than those who do.
By identifying these students early, admins are able to send push notifications asking if the student would be interested in attending an informal meeting with an advisor, and potentially help a student who would have otherwise fallen through the cracks.
The Importance of Student Services
In today’s academic climate, the need for student services is constantly growing; so much so, that it is oftentimes difficult for student affairs professionals to meet this demand. Technology will never be able to replace student services. However, if used correctly and to its full potential, a mobile platform has the ability to become an invaluable tool for SAPros in their pursuit to better serve their students on a more personalized and scalable level.