Online scheduling software helps colleges easily book rooms, schedule counseling and testing sessions
Colleges and universities are generally known for their forward-thinking focus and advancement in academic fields. However, some institutions do not implement these important features when it comes to managing and scheduling such activities as academic advising and student testing, as well as room reservation. In fact, some may still rely on the more traditional tools to schedule their appointments: a paper appointment pad and a pen. Others may use an electronic calendar or similar software that at first glance appears to be an efficient solution for their scheduling needs, but in reality does not offer the functionality to truly automate and improve meeting scheduling procedures.
Those higher education institutions that rely on these inadequate meeting planning and management tools are not alone, as many businesses and organizations, large and small, also use them. However, a growing number of people are ditching their appointments and electronic calendars for a more efficient and effective method: online meeting scheduling software.
ONLINE APPOINTMENT SCHEDULING SOFTWARE: THE BASICS
The design of many online appointment scheduling systems is what makes them so appealing to users and students alike. Commonly known as software as a service (SaaS), these programs share many of the same characteristics as other web programs that most of us are familiar with and use on a daily basis, such as e-mail, online banking, and social media sites. They are accessible in the same way that it would normally be through a secure website or portal. And like those sites, most require a username and password to securely access the planner and account.
They are also different from electronic calendars such as Google Calendar and the one included in Microsoft Outlook. While they may appear to have many of the same features, they lack the functionality that many administrators require for their scheduling needs. In short, these are personal calendars, not online planners. Being web-based, online meeting planners are accessible from any internet connection. This can be a huge benefit for administrators who work out of the office or for staff working in different offices or locations.
WHAT COLLEGES, UNIVERSITIES USE IT FOR
Because of its flexibility, online meeting software is applicable to a wide range of scheduling needs. Some of the more popular tasks that institutions use the apps for include:
• Room schedule. Scheduling software helps faculty and staff master this sometimes difficult procedure. A proven scheduler will automatically manage and track room space, classes, students and other information.
• Academic advising. Many institutions rely on meeting software to plan and manage student time and information. If the counseling office allows online self-scheduling, students can access the schedule and book their sessions online at their convenience.
• Testing students. Online booking systems make it easy to set up and efficiently manage student testing facilities and times. As mentioned above, online self-scheduling makes it convenient to schedule testing time 24 hours a day.
WHAT THE APPOINTMENT SOFTWARE OFFERS
Features vary between providers, but most offer standard functionality such as:
• Point and click technology. Many scheduling systems offer both faculty and students the ease of viewing a calendar online and clicking on the available day and time they wish to schedule or manage.
• Online independent student schedule. If selected, institutions and departments can allow students to view the online schedule and securely plan their meetings, sessions or room space. All that is required is an internet connection.
• Automated email and text message reminders. Everyone appreciates reminders. And they can reduce the number of “no-shows” by more than 50 percent. However, phone call reminders and email messages can reduce staff time. Some systems will automatically send email and text message reminders before a scheduled appointment. Faculty and administrators can also receive reminders about scheduled meetings, cancellations, and changes.
• Accurate record keeping and reporting. Because schedulers act as a centralized location for schedule details and student information, it allows for efficient record keeping and reporting. The system can even provide pre-set reports to help educators retrieve desired information more easily and quickly.
• E-marketing capabilities. Having your students’ and faculty’s contact information in one easily accessible place makes it easy to mine email lists to send information about upcoming programs, classes, events, reminders, and other news. This is a great way to keep in touch with those who use the scheduling system.
While all online booking and reservation systems may look the same on the surface, they can differ in functionality, capabilities and service. Among the considerations administrators should keep in mind when choosing an online scheduler are:
• Security. Since your placement software will contain contact information for your students and faculty, security is paramount. Many software providers implement the latest technologies to ensure that their customers’ information remains safe. However, it is always a good idea to research the specific type of security measures in place before implementing the software in your institution or department.
• Customer support. Have you ever purchased a product only to find out later that the company offers little or no customer service? This is an important consideration, especially if the scheduling system chosen will be the primary means of scheduling and managing students and faculty. Check if the provider offers email and/or phone support.
• Reliability. Proven online appointment scheduling software can give administrators peace of mind that their system is accurately and efficiently booking and managing rooms, students, and faculty members. Check to see if other colleges, universities, technical schools, and other educational institutions are using the software and how they view it. Also, if offered, sign up for a free trial version of the product, which will give you an idea of how it works and its specific functionality.
• Cost and service plans. Just like the systems themselves, prices and service plans can vary. Many scheduling systems are cost-effective and affordable. Also, some offer monthly payment options rather than long-term contracts.
Organizations large and small are realizing the positive impact online appointment scheduling software can have on their operations. Colleges and universities are no exception, and they are using technology that allows them to spend less time manually managing their meetings and more time on their students and programs.
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