Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
March 28, 2012
by Gary Alan Miller
In last month’s Tech Talk column, I focused on the growing importance of mobile websites and the related importance of “meeting students where they are.” But, as dynamic as websites can be, we know they are no replacement for the student/counselor relationship. In this column, I’d like to focus on tools that allow for increased engagement from a distance.
We now have the ability to extend and supplement our existing services with those that allow for physical separation. Of course, there have always been telephone appointments. So, the idea of interacting from a distance isn’t new. However, many tools are now available to get us closer to that in-person experience so valued in our profession.
Interacting with students at a distance can come in two forms: synchronous and asynchronous. Put more simply, you can interact in real time or not.
“Synchronous” refers to real-time interactions. From a technology perspective, there are a wide variety of tools to allow for real-time interactions from a distance, such as instant messages, live streaming, texting, screen sharing, video calls, and webinars.
Career centers are providing services in this realm, to varying degrees with each type. Many centers, including University of Kansas, Stanford University, University of Maine, and others, make appointments available by Skype. Others, especially those providing services to alumni, provide webinars.
Fewer centers appear to provide instant message or chat services, but Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, Willamette University and University of Wisconsin-Madison are examples of those who do.
Texting appears to be nearly non-existent as an engagement mechanism for career centers. I’d love to hear from any centers providing this service.
Next to texting, screen sharing seems among least commonly discussed of the synchronous services. Here at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I use screen sharing in real-time with students as a way to show them how to use various tools and resources when they call into our office for an appointment or quick question. I find it to be a tremendous support for those calls. There are a number of free screen-sharing tools available, some of which are through programs you might already be using.
“Asynchronous,” of course, refers to transactions that are not in real time. But, the lack of real time doesn’t make them less useful for the career center. Video, screen capture, and lecture capture are examples of asynchronous engagement. Technically e-mail and social media can fall into this category as well.
Video is relatively common among career centers, with many having robust YouTube and Vimeo channels. Although they can be time consuming to produce, short, custom videos can provide excellent return on investment with students.
It is more difficult to determine if screen capture and lecture capture are being leveraged as part of typical services. These tools can be very beneficial, and I encourage their consideration. At UNC, we use a screen-capture tool to provide video evaluations of each resume that gets uploaded into our CSM system, and students have responded very positively.
What other tools are career centers using to engage with students from a distance?
Gary Alan Miller is the assistant director for social media and innovation at university career services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You can follow him on twitter at @garyalanmiller.