How to Build Effective Student Services

It can be easy to get lost in the fog of providing student support. From employing learning center staff to figuring out what technology needs to be used where, sometimes the student is forgotten. Student support is, after all, all about helping the student achieve his or her goals.

Student services, when done right, can be beneficial to both the student and the school. Successful services will support the student in his or her classes, and eventually improve retention rates. There are a few ways to make sure that your solutions are still on the right track.

Services should be easy to use

One of the fundamental rules of User Experience design is that the easier it is to do something, the more people will do it. This principle applies to more than just creating interfaces. Even small details can make a difference in determining whether a student will use an available service.

For example, being as clear as possible when it comes to how your Learning Center works can be crucial. To an administator, the Learning Center makes perfect sense. You know the hours it’s open, where it is, how to schedule a new appointment, and how to prepare for an appointment. But that doesn’t mean students will know all that. Students who understand how your services work are more likely to use them.

Usability is especially important when it comes to tech-based services accessed through a computer. Though we may see college students as tech-savvy, there are some who have difficulties using new tech. Try to keep all students in mind when building or purchasing new tech solutions.

While tech-based solutions have the advantage of being able to scale at a lower price, they can also lack human touch. Without a person to guide the student, usability is crucial to increasing usage of these resources. Students who get frustrated won’t always contact support and may just end up giving up.

Services should appeal to students

One aspect that administrators are quick to forget is whether students will want to use their services. Your support resources have to compete with companies like Khan Academy and Night Owl. These services have teams of people dedicated to marketing and improving their products. But, schools can offer things that 3rd party services can’t. Only schools can provide on campus availability and official support of services. Use those advantages.

School administrators should focus on solving a problem that either doesn’t have a solution yet, or has a poor one in place. Many schools we work with have online tutoring systems in place, but don’t have a way for students to access on-campus tutors online. Schools who implement our system (TutorUp) improve their service by granting access to on-campus resources online. This is a service that can’t exist without the school’s support and is also appealing to students.

Students should know about available services

You can have easy to use, useful services set up for your students, but still have no users. “If you build it, they will come” isn’t always true. It’s important to find ways to market services to students, but it isn’t easy. You have to craft a message that shows the student that there is a service that they 1) should use, 2) can enjoy, and 3) can easily access.

One of the easiest and most common ways to promote student services is with flyers. Once designed, flyers can be mass produced at a low price and placed all around the school. Flyers are a good place to start, but there are ways to go above and beyond. One method we use to promote Upswing on campus is with our Campus Ambassador program. First, we find the most active student leaders on-campus by asking around. Then, we work with these students to promote Upswing to the student body. We’ve seen success at getting students to start using our platform using this approach.

Focusing on the student

Creating easy to use, appealing, and popular services boils down to putting the student first. As more students use the services available to them, more students will feel supported. Students who feel supported by their school are more likely to do well in classes and graduate. By offering services that students want to use, you can see a large return on investment from your support services.


Upswing is a higher education retention company that focuses on online tutoring and providing advanced analytics. Originally published on the Upswing blog.

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