Thursday, 24 January 2013

Student Information Points - from start to some success

This is a very belated summary of the Student Information Points (SIPs) from when we began in August until the end of Semester 1 in December.  It has been an interesting, exciting and challenging 5 months - a valuable experience for myself and the rest of the SIP team.
We did a presentation event in November which went well and was a milestone for us as it enabled us to put down a marker at a certain point to say what we had achieved, or at least the progress we had made. The audience for this presentation was a cross section of staff from across the University including support / central services and also academic / schools. I presented a cut down but updated version of this presentation in the first week of this Semester and again it was good to 'mark' our progress.
On a practical level the Student Information Points have been operational on a daily basis since the 10th September which was the first day of Freshers week.  We've offered a face to face service and an online presence including the website and social media sites.  The SIPs have offered an electronic communication service including email and text.  
We have been based at the Main Library in George Square and also in two places at Kings Buildings. We are constantly reviewing our locations especially at Kings Buildings to work out where is the best place for us to offer an accessible and useful information service for students. We've also done some Outreach which is when we have set up a 'mobile SIP desk' in buildings at other campuses of the University.  These include the Edinburgh College of Art, Moray House - School of Education, Easter Bush - the School of Veterinary Studies.  

The SIP team have done an excellent job in collecting and collating information from across the University and as you are probably aware the University of Edinburgh is a vast and diverse place.  This has been one of the crucial factors contributing to the success of the service and means that we can answer any question.  We may not know the answer but the team know a great deal and know how to find it out if need be.
An important part of collecting the information has been liaising with staff across the University in central services and in schools.  This has been interesting and challenging and has included a lot of work by the team and myself at different levels to achieve this. We have liaised with individual staff and also through meetings, committees and groups.  I don't think there is a set formula for building up these relationships,  they are different in each area and some of the schools are very different to each other.  Also as we are part of a bigger project it is different to being part of a department ourselves so this has had advantages and disadvantages.
The logging and recording of enquiries has been valuable as it has given us the data we need to constantly review the service that we offer. It has also enabled us to give feedback about the sort of questions that students are asking and the sort of information that they need communicating to them.  Most of our enquiries have been from students although some have been from visitors, potential students and also from staff. We are looking at ways of collecting the data so that we have more information about the type of enquirer as well as the type of enquiry.   
We have lots of plans for Semester 2.  The Student Support Project, of which we are a strand, is growing so there are opportunities to collaborate with communications and with inductions.  We are developing our web presence and looking at ways we can communicate about our service and also be a communication channel for other services. We're looking at what else  we can offer in order to add 'substance' to the service and provide documentation that students need.  We held a competition for students to design a logo for our posters and materials so we are hoping to use these ideas to update our brand and raise our profile.
Lots to look forward to.