College online offerings examined

    A presentation regarding online student services was made at the Career Services Center on May 9, featuring “”E-Services in Higher Education”” expert Robert Kvavik.

    Kvavik, an associate vice president and vice provost for the University of Minnesota, spoke about improving student services mainly through the implementation of advanced Internet technology.

    UCSD Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Ed Spriggs was also present for the event and noted that such implementation is essential for “”doing business more student and user friendly, in order to pursue education in a more effective manner.””

    With the fine tuning of Internet programs for students, better services will ease the complications of managing the boom of enrollment growth and the current budget problems with more efficient systems that are at par with the latest advancements in integrating the Internet with student services.

    An example of such a program is UCSD’s StudentLink, which was first launched in 1996. The online service Web page offers an abundance of services to students such as individual e-mail accounts, class enrollment, viewing academic history, voting for campus elections and a recent add-on that allows students to pay their bills.

    “”There are always new improvements to make it easier for students and make the profits more seamless,”” said one member of the StudentLink Advisory Committee. “”It’s an ongoing process.””

    One task that the committee hopes to fulfill is the removal of the wait list option for classes since many academic departments do not offer a wait listing for classes anyway.

    Administrators across the nation are interested in expanding their student services through the ever-growing technology of the Internet. Technological advancement has made student services more conveniently accessible according to some, but Kvavik noted otherwise.

    “”It’s not about technology: it’s how you do business,”” Kvavik said. “”The culture on how to do business, and the culture that drives the business.””

    As Kvavik noted, e-business is not limited to trade or careers, but created to “”tailor to the local environment”” of university student service. It includes “”strategic planning analysis”” as a managing institution.

    Currently, 480 university institutions have implemented online programs similar to StudentLink. As an example of the extent in which these programs are utilized, Kvavik stated that the University of Minnesota’s online student service Web site receives 13,000 hits a month and four to five pages of material are downloaded on a daily basis.

    As the student population increases and the demands for effective student service escalates, quality service becomes a priority.

    “”There is a demand for customer action and control, and there are rising expectations,”” Kvavik said. “”The balance of power is shifting, and you have to deal with the way students want it.””

    According to Kvavik, 80 percent of all admission applications are completed online and 75 percent of all university student services are provided on the Internet.

    Although college students may appreciate online student service, there are conditions in which personal and office assistance is of more help.

    An example one member of the audience gave was when students need psychological advice from an administration. Receiving counseling from the Internet would reduce the sense of personal help.

    Even so, when it comes to office management solutions versus self service on the Internet, the latter is preferred.

    “”We have some students who would rather do it personally, but we find most students are interested in using the online service,”” Kvavik said.

    The presentation also raised the subject of online textbook services raking away profits from university book stores. Kvavik noted that Web sites like http://www.textbooks.com have an “”enormous competitive advantage.””

    Because of this factor, university-affiliated textbook sales on the Internet is advocated, not only to benefit the university in terms of profits, but to provide better options for the student as well.

    As more and more services are provided, a threshold that limits students’ demands becomes an issue.

    “”The question is about raising the bar and doing it better,”” Kvavik said. “”Sometimes we’re not as quick as the students are.””

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