Stop Right Now27 February 2017
In 2016, the University of Melbourne introduced Stop 1, a new student centre aiming to be the home of student services. The changes were part of the University’s Business Improvement Program for 2014/15, which saw previously separate faculty student service centres merged into one place.
Located at 757 Swanston Street, students are greeted by assistants and a bustling office-like centre. They then print a ticket and are directed to wait at one of the multi-coloured couches. Not long after, students walk to a pod or room, where with some luck, their queries will be answered and resolved.
The concept of Stop 1 sounds simple: a central, easy to find hub for students to heave through the complicated university administration process. Yet, in entering its second year of operations, has Stop 1 really revolutionised the way the University connects with students and services?
The centre offers many modes of communication, including face-to-face appointments and telephone calls. More urgent queries can be answered through the online chat system, where one’s questions can be answered within minutes. For more pressing enquiries outside office hours, a plethora of information awaits under various Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) categories online, including admissions, administration, enrolment, support, skills and development.
However, the efficiency of such services is debatable, with many students recording long wait times and incoherent answers as Stop 1’s major flaws. While long delays may be solved with a higher staff presence, the inconsistency of answers provided may be more difficult to resolve.
“Stop 1’s online support supervisors provide inconsistent and over-generalised answers,” said Bachelor of Environments student Isabella Etna. “It’s difficult for students like myself to resolve issues.”
“While corresponding via the online chat is convenient, the answers I received after multiple chat sessions surrounding enrolment issues meant that I had to visit the centre in person, only to be directed to another online resource.”
The lack of clear and guided answers through the online service has also caused confusion for many Environments students, a course that commenced its final year of intake of 2016.
Many students are given differing opinions from staff members on whether or not they should stay in the Environments stream or transfer to the Bachelor of Design.
“My understanding is that the Bachelor of Design commences this year and the Bachelor of Environments will be slowly phased out,” says Samuel Choy, a second year Bachelor of Environments student.
“Stop 1 should give a uniform answer to students regarding if it’s beneficial to switch to the new course from Environments.”
Despite the concerns expressed by students, according to Director of Student Service Delivery, Dr Fiona Downie, the University is striving to improve such problems within the system.
“Now that we’ve been operating for a year, we have a full set of data to build a picture of what the issues are and can start to address these one by one over the next 18 to 24 months,” she says.
Students can expect to see improvements to staff training, online systems, web content and even the level one Parkville facility in 2017. Late January will also see a new virtual booking system via Zoom and extended hours suitable for working students, not to mention more staff working alongside each other in one team.
However even with expected improvements, one of the biggest concerns for students is waiting times, particularly around the beginning of semester.
“We know from feedback that students want to self-manage where they can and we encourage students to take advantage of all of the Stop 1 channels to avoid waiting in a queue when they don’t need to be there,” said Downie.
According to Downie, by the middle of semester, over 75 per cent of students will wait less than 10 minutes to meet with an advisor.
“For the first few weeks of semester, we encourage students to follow us on Twitter to know the best times to drop in, and to take advantage of the live chat, online and telephone enquiries to avoid queues.”
With the University’s willingness to improve the student services, students can expect Stop 1 to be bigger and better in 2017.