Success of a Separate Online Schedule
I consider our separate Online schedule to be a success in providing access for online students and clarifying the online appointment process to the extent possible within WCOnline.
When we began our online consulting pilot in Fall 2015, we did not use a separate schedule for online appointments. Instead, each consulting hour worked by those 5 online consultants was available for either face-to-face or online appointments, across all schedules. For example, a consultant working in King could have any of their hours used for face-to-face or online, depending on the student who scheduled with them. We followed this process for the first 8 weeks of the semester and encountered several problems: on-campus students were beginning to attach their documents to their appointment form (because this option was now turned on for online appointments) and they believed that consultants would read their paper before their appointment began. More importantly, online students were having difficulty locating online consultants, and these consultants were usually already booked for face-to-face appointments.
Over these first 8 weeks, we had only 4 online appointments out of 130 potential hours (3% usage). After moving to a separate Online schedule in Week 9, we had 56 online appointments in the last 8 weeks. During our pilot, then, placing online hours in their own schedule resulted in a 93% increase in online appointments (see Figure 19).
Image Description. Figure 19 is a vertical bar graph that compares the number of weekly online appointments over 16 weeks in Fall 2015. The data is as follows:
- Weeks 1-3: 0 appointments
- Week 4: 2 appointments
- Weeks 5-7: 0 appointments
- Week 8: 2 appointments
- Week 9: 2 appointments (marks the beginning of move to online schedule and 93% increase in online appointments)
- Week 10: 6 appointments
- Week 11: 7 appointments
- Week 12: 11 appointments
- Week 13: 16 appointments
- Week 14: 1 appointment
- Week 15: 7 appointments
- Week 16: 6 appointments
Percentage of Use
The Online schedule has consistently had the highest percentage of use and the lowest number of unused hours of each schedule since its introduction in Fall 2015 (see Figures 20-27). The overall 2015-16 percentage of use for the Online schedule was 80% (excluding Winter 2016) and 75% (including Winter 2016).
Image Description. Figure 20 is a horizontal bar graph that compares percentage of use in 6 consulting schedules for Fall 2016. The data is as follows:
- Gross: 26%
- Bachelor: 65%
- Peabody: 76%
- King: 81%
- BEST: 86%
- Online: 90%
Image Description. Figure 21 is a horizontal bar graph that compares percentage of use in 7 consulting schedules for Fall 2015. The data is as follows:
- CPI: 37%
- Gross: 38%
- Bachelor: 65%
- BEST: 73%
- Peabody: 76%
- King: 76%
- Online: 93%
Image Description. Figure 22 is a horizontal bar graph that compares percentage of use in 7 consulting schedules for Spring 2016. The data is as follows:
- Gross: 0%
- CPI: 9%
- Bachelor: 55%
- Peabody: 59%
- BEST: 61%
- King: 71%
- Online: 75%
Image Description. Figure 23 is a horizontal bar graph that compares percentage of use in 2 consulting schedules in Summer 2016. The King Library schedule had a 25% percentage of use while the Online schedule had an 85% percentage of use.
Image Description. Figure 24 is a horizontal bar graph that compares unused hours in 6 consulting schedules for Fall 2016. The data is as follows:
- Online: 18 unused hours
- Bachelor: 28 unused hours
- BEST: 28 unused hours
- Gross: 37 unused hours
- Peabody: 68 unused hours
- King: 315 unused hours
Image Description. Figure 25 is a horizontal bar graph that compares unused hours in 7 consulting schedules for Fall 2015. The data is as follows:
- Online: 4 unused hours
- CPI: 26 unused hours
- BEST: 38 unused hours
- Bachelor: 49 unused hours
- Peabody: 59 unused hours
- Gross: 72 unused hours
- King: 526 unused hours
Image Description. Figure 26 is a horizontal bar graph that compares unused hours in 7 consulting schedules for Spring 2016. The data is as follows:
- Online: 41 unused hours
- CPI: 51 unused hours
- Gross: 52 unused hours
- Bachelor: 58 unused hours
- BEST: 59 unused hours
- Peabody: 134 unused hours
- King: 454 unused hours
Image Description. Figure 27 is a horizontal bar graph that compares unused hours in 2 consulting schedules in Summer 2016. The Online schedule had 24 unused hours while the King Library schedule had 339 unused hours.
Furthermore, for every semester, the number of unused hours in the King Schedule alone is greater than the total number of hours offered in the Online schedule. Thus, the Online schedule is not the reason for our decreasing on-campus appointments or lower on-campus percentage of use.
Image Description. Figure 28 is a vertical bar graph that compares unused hours in the King Library schedule to the total number of hours offered in the Online schedule, across 4 semesters. The data is as follows:
- Fall 2016:
- 315 unused hours in King
- 164 total hours offered Online
- Summer 2016
- 339 unused hours in King
- 159 total hours offered Online
- Spring 2016
- 4545 unused hours in King
- 165 total hours offered Online
- Fall 2015
- 526 unused hours in King
- 60 total hours offered Online
All 5 online consultants support keeping online appointments in their own schedule, with 4 of them expressing that as their preference. Their statements are below and cover the following main reasons:
- Increase clarity for online students and prevent 3 consultation types in one schedule
- Prevent misuse by on-campus students
- Accommodate online student unfamiliarity with the need to schedule early, based on on-campus course schedules
- Treat online consulting as equal to satellite locations, which have their own schedules
- Maintain an online consulting community, where online consultants easily know who else is working online to discuss strategies and cover their online shifts
Online Consultant 1
I personally feel that the schedules between online and face-to-face should remain separate. My reasoning is that it may be more difficult for students to navigate a schedule with so many options. We would need to have banners to explain the differences between face-to-face, synchronous and asynchronous consultations and it just seems like a lot of work and possible confusion for students.Online Consultant 1
Online Consultant 2
I feel that keeping the online schedule separate makes it more readily available to the individuals who need that resource. If we combine the two schedules, I feel that the resource may be misused by on-campus students.Online Consultant 2
Online Consultant 3
As a consultant who has worked with students in three modalities (face-to-face, live online, and written response), I see firsthand the difference among the types of students who take advantage of these services. I know that the face-to-face modality has been the primary way students can receive feedback on their writing from a consultant, so those students are familiar with how the writing center works and how far in advance to schedule appointments. This includes a familiarity with the different points in the semester that the schedule fills up. The students who take advantage of our online consulting services include a huge number of students on regional campuses or who are involved in a distance-learning program like Project Dragonfly. They are on a completely different schedule than on-campus students, so their familiarity with how the schedule fills up around midterms, common project due dates, and finals is lacking.
I believe that maintaining an online schedule separate from the on-campus schedule makes the most sense to provide the most accessible services for all students, specifically those who most often take advantage of our online services. We keep a separate schedule for our satellite locations, so it would make sense that the online consulting schedule should remain separate. The online consulting program is seen as an extension of our services, similar to how Gross, Bachelor, Peabody, and BEST are all extensions of our services created to accommodate the needs of all students. If they remain on a separate schedule, so should the online consulting program.Online Consultant 3
Online Consultant 4
Personally, I kind of see the pros and cons of having a separate online-only schedule. Having an separate online schedule could possibly lead to inadvertent conflicts with regards to things like shift changes; the fact that it is a schedule on its own might lead to misunderstandings about how long someone is actually working on a particular day.
However, I do see the benefit of having an online schedule, especially for writers who are scheduling appointments. Having the available online slots mixed in with, lets say, the King Library schedule could be a little confusing to writers who wish to schedule an online appointment. Furthermore, as there are two kinds of online appointments that writers can choose from, having this much information integrated with another schedule’s could make it hard to navigate for people who are looking to make face to face appointments.Online Consultant 4
Online Consultant 5
A separate online schedule is incredibly helpful in maintaining an online community; It’s very helpful to be able to immediately know who is capable to do onlines in the current consultant atmosphere, for schedule covers as well as maintaining an interpersonal online community. I know who is capable of doing the types of online that I do, which helps in prioritizing scheduling and resolving scheduling concerns should I need someone who is capable of handling all of my consulting types.
I also think it does a great deal in maintaining the identity of the online community; we are still a new and growing aspect of the center, and having that separate schedule helps us know that we are recognized as a part of the center that can develop itself over time.
In addition, it provides a considerable amount of agency and efficacy to the online consultants that the schedule is maintained by the same individual who works directly in developing the online consultant training and practices; Jenelle being the mediator and supervisor over these scheduling concerns helps maintain an open dialogue that could contribute to the training and practices of online consulting, as well as provide a sense of confidence and trust that our scheduling concerns can be resolved by someone who knows the nuances of online consulting, rather than it being handled generally in a way that could result in the different modalities and capabilities of the online consultants being overlooked.
Because of all of this, I think a separate schedule should be maintained for the foreseeable future, with the organizer of the training and practices at the helm.Online Consultant 5
Overall Arguments and Perspectives
From the previous data, I have shown that any extra time or work involved in creating an Online schedule is worth the outcome for our students and for the center’s overall numbers. My argument for maintaining the Online schedule has five perspectives: inclusivity, data collection, logistics, training, and expansion.
- Online appointments are primarily used by online and non-traditional students, who do not benefit as much (or at all) from face-to-face services. Thus, setting aside online resources for these students supports our commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.
- Online students have fairer opportunities to receive writing support with the Online schedule. If the schedules were combined, every appointment hour we offer would be available for face-to-face, but still only specific consultants (and thus hours) would be available for online: this would show preferential treatment for on-campus students.
- If we see benefit in setting aside satellite resources for students in 5 different locations on the same campus, we should see benefit in setting aside resources for students located in other cities, states, and countries.
- We can currently calculate a percentage of use for online appointments specifically, which would not be possible if online appointments were combined with another schedule. For example, we would not know if a decrease in online appointments was due to decreased student interest or a lack of availability because hours were used for face-to-face.
- We can keep our additional questions for students that appear only on appointment forms within the Online schedule:
- Type of course (online, partially online, on-campus, etc.)
- Current location
- Ways to send their paper (Google Doc, Word)
- Instructions to check their email for directions
- Online student confusion has decreased since moving to the Online schedule and is easier to solve when students can be directed to one place where all consultants and hours are available for online consulting.
- The Marketing Team’s usability tests showed that students had difficulty locating appointments in a schedule that had only on-campus appointments. Placing 3 mediums in the same schedule would likely increase this difficulty.
- A separate schedule allows for separate instructional images that are specific for online appointments.
- A separate schedule also allows for separate confirmation and reminder emails that clarify instructions for online appointments specifically.
- Consultants in training need to experience online appointments every week to apply what they’re learning and complete training in a reasonable time period. Our pilot in Fall 2015 showed that 3 consultants in training did not practice online appointments for over 8 weeks straight, because they did not have hours set aside for online appointments.
- To pilot audiovisual comments for asynchronous appointments (and any additional changes in the future), online consultants need to be practicing every week, which also helps us to track and solve problems sooner as they arise.
- To expand online consulting in any form, hours need to be set aside for this growth to happen and for it to be tracked accurately with data.
- To expand synchronous, online consultants need to be scheduled for night shifts, which will require additional planning regardless of the schedule they are in. At least in the Online schedule, this planning will result in actual online appointments.