Category Archives: Uncategorized

Self service or on-line booking does it really give the best experience?

appnt-locationMany Careers Services and other appointment based services such as your GP have been using on-line booking for a while.  But are we really getting or giving a better experience?

Has anyone done any analysis of satisfaction among on-line bookers vs those who were triaged?

In an ideal world where there are unlimited appointments and everyone understands exactly what they need and how to get it, then yes perhaps it’s the most convenient way to allow access to your services.


  • Many users are not really sure what they need
  • People don’t read explanations of what is available
  • Some people find accessing technology difficult
  • Appointment availability is not unlimited

In my experience…

We have been using on-line booking for our simplest service “Applications Advice” for about 5 years now.

You would think it was fairly simple “advice on applications”, the page on the website and on the booking system states what this includes and what to bring. But more often than not these instructions are ignored.

It’s so easy to book,  users often book multiple appointments without meaning to, or have no real intention of attending, leading to high numbers of no shows.

On the plus side: It’s high volume so on-line booking stops people having to queue at 8am in the morning to get a chance of an appointment. It also frees up the phone lines a bit.

We recently started making some other types of appointment available on-line too, and certainly they get booked, but it’s clear some students have no real understanding of what they have booked or why.

Booking in person has benefits.

When a student comes in or rings up, we use diagnostic questioning to find out what help they need and how prepared they are.  This enables us to help them there and then, or if necessary refer them to an appointment. The help we give them makes them more prepared for the appointment and we are able to check that they understand what they need to do.  The personal approach makes students more likely to attend too.

Of course it’s time consuming but perhaps that time spent helping is actually well spent.  Benefiting both the student who is able to discuss their needs and get a tailored service, and the institution in terms of better satisfaction and less time wasted in non attendance.

Yes it means that you can’t book an appointment at 4 am in the morning, but is that actually the most important thing?

We are not alone

It’s clear that the NHS has been having the same thoughts, at my Doctors surgery alone they have clearly tried a few things… First there was the queue, then there was telephone booking, then there was on-line booking, and then there wasn’t! Now there is telephone triage where you speak to a doctor or nurse who decides if you need to come in or if they can quickly help you by phone. I have to say this latter approach seems pretty effective!

Is there a middle road?

I’m not sure I want to go back to the mad panic every morning on phones and queues waiting for an appointment.Do we have the time to talk to every student who wants to get advice on their CV to ensure they are ready for an appointment? Perhaps we do if it means that they need less appointments overall, it’s just a shift in staffing provision. Some systems may provide ways of unlocking appointment types after an initial consult and this could be a really good compromise.

I’m hopeful that improvements in on-line booking systems will prompt users into selecting the correct options, (if they know what they need).  However, I don’t think there is a substitute for talking to someone as part of the information & advice process before you get to advice & guidance.

What are your thoughts?





New ways of interacting with students. The role of Careers information staff

Well really it’s not so new it’s just chatting, finding information and answering questions. But how we do that,  is it really changing?  I think it’s starting to.

It’s not what we are saying that’s changing, it’s how we are communicating that seems to be shifting and what our role as information staff is.

A couple of case studies:

  1. A friend posts a short notice vacancy on my non-work Facebook page.  I post it on a student Facebook group.  Within an hour a student asks a question on the group about it. I contact my friend via messenger to get the information and get back to the student. Meanwhile another student seeing the conversation asks another question – and on it goes.  All without opening my mouth to speak.
  2. The other day I chatted to students face to face, by phone, by email, via twitter and using live chat on our website.  I also blogged, posted info on Facebook and edited the website.  Didn’t touch a piece of paper other than a post-it note!

So what is the role of the information professional?

In the world of Careers the role of information staff is blurry at best and can differ enormously depending on other staff roles.

  • A researcher – someone who can find the right information for a clients needs, and can find opportunities and information they didn’t know they needed.
  • An information architect – someone who can create a website or publications, that are structured in a clear & logical way
  • A facilitator – someone who can help students to access opportunities.
  • A communicator – someone who can take the information and make it assessable by using appropriate methods to disseminate it and appropriate language.
  • A critical friend – someone who can support students and be there to answer questions and point them in the right direction
  • An advocate for students – to ensure their needs are considered when planning service delivery.
  • A trouble shooter – someone who will take an issue and run with it.

Who’s changing is it us or them?

It seems to me that we are seeing a cohort of slightly different students, with slightly less straightforward aspirations. They may seem a little tentative or shy about coming forward but they are coming.

  • Is student engagement actually working are we bringing this new student type out of the woodwork?
  • By using different modes of communication are we showing that we are accessible and not scary?
  • Is our language and the way we present ourselves changing? Are we more understanding of students who need more support and encouragement.
  • Is it the more buoyant labour market?  Commercial jobs are out there, there’s lots of them so do some students feel able to stand back and take a look at a different path rather than feeling pressured?

…as usual a lot of questions and few answers.

…and back to social media

A while back I was musing on social media and where we are going with it. Turns out that was a can of worms, leading to looking at a whole communications strategy and really thinking about what we are trying to achieve as a service.

Where, how and what we communicate is really key to this. Students may choose not to talk to us openly on social media, and that’s ok, perhaps just showing that we are there and not too threatening is enough.


Social media what’s new, what’s working and how do we evaluate it?

It’s been a while since i’ve been here in musing mode so you can guess we are reviewing something at the moment! Yes you guessed it Social Media!

We started with a blog many years ago (and then a revamped blog), then ventured into Facebook and jumped into Twitter.  They all seemed to have a purpose and be used, but fads come and go (as do students). Perhaps we need a bit of time to assess what we are doing and why?

Young people seem to be all snapchat and whatsapp, intagramming like their lives depended on it. Is facebook old hat?  Was pinterest a passing fad? What’s around the corner?

What do students use and do they want us there?

When you ask students what they use they say Facebook and increasingly Twitter.

Using, as far as a student is concerned seems to be seeing the information in their news feed, not actively participating much.  If you are lucky they may click on a link.  For us that doesn’t really help – no nice metrics to evaluate, if you don’t like our posts or talk to us how do we know that you are even looking!  We feel unwanted and might even give up using something if we can’t measure its use!

So we ask students again what do you use and the answers are the same, and yes they seem to value what we post there but it’s not cool to interact with us. (Fair enough!)  Secretly I bet they are all snapchatting but don’t want us getting involved!

So here’s where you my information colleagues come in!

  • Has anyone done a social media review – were there any findings or trends you could share?
  • What is worth evaluating?
  • Is anyone using Twitter lists successfully?
  • How are you working with recruiters who want you to post on social media about them?
  • Do you have one Twitter or Facebook account or many for different purposes?
  • What’s new? Anyone using something that really seems to encourage students to interact with each other and you?

Any intel leave a comment here or on the LinkedIn discussion or Tweet me @MallenSarah



What do users want out of a website?

newwebjul14I started this journey earlier this year when we were told that we needed a new website by September.  With over a 1000 pages of web content not a mean feat!

Fortunately the web team had prepared some new templates to drag us into the mobile enabled world so we had a pretty good idea of what the website could do and the limitations.

So I asked students what they wanted….

“A website that gives us a job” was the overall response from the focus group.

We know students are focussed on the end goal and tend to miss out on the stages in between and this was held up by the focus group.  They tended to dive into the vacancy database and ignore the whole website.  (Groans!)

Basically they don’t want to read reams of information unless it’s the information they need.  This is why everyone googles – why bother reading the bits of the website you don’t need!

Management needs

It was suggested we produce content for year groups to talk to the students at their level.  Not as simple as you might think as people take decisions and need to know things at different speeds. BUT we implemented it.

The university style

Changed overnight a few months after we produced the beta version of the new website. Our templates can not replicate this style of website but we can make it look a bit closer to it by changing some navigation on the home page.

Staff needs

Information and guidance staff use the website in 1-1 interactions with students and they tend not to always be intuitive users, they learn where information lives and how to get there. Like driving the same route to work each day – changing the route tends to invoke panic.  So making any changes was not going to be popular.

So on to usability testing

We produced a beta version based on all the needs above and asked some usability testers to take a group of students and evaluate their experience.

It was pretty much what I expected – that doesn’t mean it was good, just expected!

  • Too much information
  • Change to action based navigation not year groups.
  • Change the names of things.
  • and a whole load of things that are not possible to implement in the templates we have.

Happy days!

So what next…

  1. Draft a new beta version based on student requirements and the new university style.
  2. Back to staff with some questions.  Turns out they all have different opinions, fine, that’s representative of the general population.
  3. Try to find a middle ground around what most staff and students want.
  4. Short consultation period via email (by now i’m pretty sure everyone is sick of it!)
  5. Make the changes on the live website and wait….

and then what?

  • Monitoring usage using google analytics
  • Looking at SEO

…. but in the mean time before we all get too obsessed 5 tips for librarians using web metrics is a good place to start!





It’s really happening, we are moving.

packingThe packing crates are here and we are filling them up and generally making a huge pile of boxes to go with us.

The movers come on Friday and we are aiming to open in our new space a week later so we will be working in an empty room for a week while half our staff start setting up in our new space. It’s a little scary given it’s Welcome Week  (AKA Freshers Week) next week which traditionally signals a deluge of students looking for part-time jobs.

We have a cunning plan to minimise disruption in case the builders run late (er), and are just hoping all our deliveries of guides and directories find us in our new building.

So its end of an era for us.

We have been in Crawford house since the early 1970’s and now the Information Team are flying the nest and going solo (and any other clichés you care to mention).

  • No more doing the post.
  • No more swipe barrier trying to chop people in half.
  • No more being the only ground floor office to help the lost souls on campus.
  • No more sub zero temperatures and huddling round fan heaters.

We are looking forward to:

  • A new bright airy space. (Hopefully at a temerature that sustains life!)
  • Working with new colleagues from other IAG services accross the University, a whole load of new water cooler conversations and biscuits in the kitchen emails.
  • Finding out the space works – we have absolutely no clue how students (and staff) are going to react to it.

Wish us luck!

Find out how careers theories can help with information provision

Bit of a shameless plug for the AGCAS course here, but if you are new to careers information and or are keen on theoretical perspectives to help underpin your work this could be for you.

Career Information Learning Theories, Warwick Fri  14  Jun 2013

This one-day course will provide all information specialists with the  opportunity to explore and synthesise different theoretical perspectives  and to formulate and articulate their own theory of career information  learning.

We will look at a range of theoretical perspectives and explore how these may be applied to and underpin our work as careers information professionals.

By the end of this course, participants should have or be able to:

• have an overview of the broad themes in traditional career development theories;
• be able to describe the benefits of using a theoretical basis to underpin the provision of    careers information
• understand how the acquisition of career knowledge can be described as a learning  process;
• be able to describe the four theoretical perspectives outlined in the training and to apply the process of ‘triangulation’.

Find out more

This is one of three new one-day courses run as a part of the Postgraduate Certificate in Career Education, Information and Guidance in HE (CEIGHE) under the AGCAS/Warwick Career Information module. Registrants must take all three courses as part of their certificate module. The other courses are Technology Update and Writing for the Web. ( also good stuff!)

Goodbye files.

Yes it’s happening we are getting rid of our information files, and this is why.

For the benefit those of you who may be reading this from other sectors, CRC occupation shelvesCareers Libraries have traditionally held a lot of loose leaf information on different career areas. This is classified using the AGCAS occupational classification and it usually results in a collection of files plus books and other paper based resources on a particular career.

Over the last 10 years more and more information has obviously been made available online, so the files have been whittled and weeded down to a more manageable number and now it’s that time to take the decision update them all or get rid of them.

There are pros and cons to the files

  • They contain information which can be hard to find online, spread over many websites.
  • They contain brochures and supplements and clippings which you really would’t find online.
  • The classification means that a user can find everything on educational psychology in one place, they can flick through the file a bit like a book and may find gems they were not expecting.
  • There is very little published in the UK on many career areas so there are no books.
  • Many of the takeaway brochures that come from publishers / companies are not free from bias, the files often contain information that shows the bigger picture.
  • They offer a sense of place – you can go there to find out stuff!


  • They are time consuming to update.
  • When you find that the updating involves printing out half the internet you begin to wonder why?
  • They take up a lot of space.
  • They are not that well used in some cases.

Our process

  1. We developed ” sector ” pages on our website some years ago with a view that we needed to mirror paper and web resources where possible.
  2. We weeded files down to the essentials.
  3. We observed how often files were used.
  4. In our latest updating cycle we updated the website first and then asked ourselves “what is there in the files that we can not find online?” The answer was, very little.
  5. At which point we found out that we are likely to be moving and will have less space, so this gave us an extra shove!
  6. We ensured that links to useful resources, professional bodies etc were on our sector pages and in our guides.
  7. We changed records on our catalogue from “leaflet” to “electronic resource” and ensured a link was given for that resource or website.
  8. We gave the files to relevant careers consultants so that they could salvage anything for their personal use, and the rest went in the bin!
  9. The empty files we are giving away to students.

Aren’t the shelves empty?

  1. It’s quite a lenthy process so they are dissappearing slowly, it will have a big impact on the occupational section but not so much in other areas.
  2. I’m using up some of the space on the shelves by making more of displaying reference books and takeaway material.
  3. If it looks really bare in some areas I might get rid of a few book cases.
  4. It’s temporary!

What will we have in our new Careers Centre?

We don’t know exactly how much shelving and display space we will have, and when we get in i’m sure it will evolve. We will be talking to designers and suppliers soon, its very exciting!

At the moment we are planning on taking reference books and journals, and we will be ruthless if needs be with unsolicited paper resources.

We are also considering distributing some relevant takeaway materials to academic schools if they have resource areas.

So, no we are not going papeless

  • Feedback from some other services revealed that it was not popular with clients
  • They had to rebuy books – and provide printed guides again to make it look like a destination and provide a “Careers Identity”.
  • We have repeatedly asked our clients about their preferences and they still say we want paper and online guides. You try fobbing someone off with the PDF and they will expect you to print it!