Imagine no student services

Erase your field Daily Extend #173 – imagine a world where a field you work in does not exist. I am a faculty member working in Student Services, the so-called non-academic side of post-secondary education. I say so-called because many student services have a definite academic role and focus such as library and tutoring services. I think I prefer out-of-class services, but no one asked me.

Imagine what our campuses would be like with no counselling services or library or tutoring or health services or accessibility services or financial aid or ….. it would be a lonely, bleak place, in my opinion. Often, it feels like student services are seen as nice to have, not need to have.

As it happens, yesterday we had a Tutoring Services staff meeting and we reviewed our purpose. In brief, at St. Clair College, we develop and maintain a credible and responsive system of tutoring that focuses on academic support to students through peer, walk-in and group services as well as resources and workshops to support independent learning; opportunities for tutors to build communication and employability skills while protecting their own academics; and providing accurate and timely information back to the institution as a whole to highlight trends in student’s needs and barriers to student success. Because I come from a business background, we talk about having three customers:

  1. Students – where our goals is independent learners, we are working out way out of a job with individuals students.
  2. Tutors – where our goal is to enhance skills and provide experiences that helps them get their future job without jeopardizing their education. (Think workplace that doesn’t care if you have two exams tomorrow.)
  3. The college as a whole – where we can identify student issues within the semester and try to identify solutions to barriers to success.

This last function of feeding information back to the college is a fascinating one. Let me explain. Because we linked tutoring services into our business enterprise system, we can track semester trends to historical trends. We can see when tutoring request unexpectedly spike and move to discover why. Sometimes it means adding a service such as targeted walk-in or facilitated study groups. Other times, we can identify a class or program issue. For example, a probe into a sudden spike in requests (more than 25% of a class) in one class lead to the realization that two co-curricular classes had gotten off sequence which was causing student confusion. It was fixed within that semester and tutoring requests dropped off and student success increased.

I believe student services is a need to have in post-secondary education and, my fellow faculty, if you have a change to be involved in that field – take it – you will learn about your students in new ways that will improve your teaching when you return to the classroom.

P.S. The featured image is my first attempt at a GIF using Gyazo and it is not very smooth. Trying out new things and not being perfect is part of practicing out loud so I am running with it!

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