In this blog we explore the role of booking systems for providing vital support in blended learning environments.
While distance learning has made it possible for teaching and learning to continue, we all look forward to a time when university campuses are able to reopen their doors to students. Current thinking suggests this will involve a combination of online and face-to-face tuition, at least in the initial stages. This blended learning approach can’t come quickly enough for some disciplines that don’t lend themselves so well to remote learning alone – subjects such as those where hands-on instruction of physical equipment is involved.
Creative thinking is required for how new blended learning environments might work though. Certainly there will be much more planning around students’ presence on campus – an area where online booking systems provide much-needed support.
Booking systems are already used to cut down on unnecessary contact time with students for routine services. For example, an online booking portal for media and AV equipment dispenses with the need for students to enquire in person about resource availability. Students and faculty simply book what they need in an online catalogue, then pick it up when scheduled to attend campus.
|Importantly, with booking software you can space out equipment pick up and drop off times. There’s no bunching up of students at the desk, as they arrive to pick up or return new laptops, cameras or webcams. In fact, these systems are proven to cut waiting times dramatically at the checkout store.||
There’s no bunching up of students at the desk, as they arrive to pick up or return new laptops, cameras or webcams
When staff know who’s arriving to borrow which items and when, they can have the kit clean and ready to safely handover without unnecessary delays or queues forming.
Most students will already have good experience of using comparable technology. With a browse, search and ‘add to basket’ approach, a well-designed online booking system is remarkably similar to using Amazon or Ebay. University IT departments may be stretched to the limit supporting users elsewhere, but cloud-hosted booking software is intuitive to use with low support overheads. So it saves IT colleagues’ time as well as unburdening equipment store staff usually faced with fielding availability enquiries.
Here’s how the connect2 equipment booking system works
Instead of arriving at the desk speculatively, students can use the connect2 online system to view availability of equipment and make their own bookings. So when they turn up at the counter, the items they want are definitely available and take less than 5 minutes to issue. This is in contrast to the 15+ minutes it would otherwise take to respond to each student's query.
90% of universities using the connect2 system operate such an advance booking system, and this leads to an average 70% of bookings being made by students online in advance.
Above: The connect2 interface offers easy browsing and booking of available equipment before students set foot on campus.
Enabling students to make their own bookings saves staff time while controlling and minimising direct interactions. How is connect2 so successful in achieving this?
- Connect2 makes it easy for students to book their items in advance, helping them to browse and select the items they need, add them to their basket and agree to terms and conditions. It’s an online experience that most students are very familiar with, so there’s no resistance or lag in getting students to adopt the system
- Images and information on each item help students choose the right equipment for their needs
- A ‘frequently booked with’ feature assists students in adding the necessary accessories and battery packs etc to their booking
- Further time is saved when picking up the equipment as you will have time to review and prepare for the scheduled checkouts made visible to you in the same system
|More time is saved by dispensing with the need to explain or negotiate the authorised length of loans with each student – instead the borrowing rules are embedded in the system with the details given to students at the point of booking online. It's even possible to tailor the borrowing rules by user type so, for instance, staff can book for longer periods than students.||
90% of universities using connect2 operate an advance booking system, and this leads to an average 70% of bookings being made by students online in advance
Students can also renew items themselves without staff assistance, simply by going online. Connect2 works out if there is sufficient availability to allow the renewal. If there isn’t then the automated reminders will tell the student to return the item.
It all adds up to eliminating unnecessary trips into campus, while giving students peace of mind they can secure, return and renew the resources they need at mutually convenient times.