Friends, grab the nearest googling device you have and search “one stop shop university”. How many search results did you get? I have hundreds. In fact, the only thing notable about my search results is that my own university isn’t in the results, but don’t worry, yours is!
This is a rant about why I’m not going to rant about a one-stop shop. I’m not going to rant about it because it’s a good idea that has seen its day. In fact, I was responsible for helping to establish a one-stop shop in 1997. We brought together almost every possible service students needed into one location. These included everything from the university switchboard, to getting meal cards, class schedules, academic advising, student work, financial awards and loans, and even roommate assignments for dormitories! Yep, pretty much everything except the bookstore and going to the bathroom….
A good one-stop shop helps to reduce unnecessary runaround on the part of students. It increases collaboration among staff members. It can create a cool buzz in the area if you plan the space and layout well. It’s a good thing. But it’s an old thing that’s out-of-date with the reality of our new crop of 17-18 year old students who look at desktop computers like we look at payphones: “Whoah dude! You have one of those? That’s so fly!”
By the way, what device did you use to search “one stop shop university”? I’m gonna bet that everyone over 30 used their laptop or desktop, and I’ll bet that everyone under 30 used their hand-held-phone-that-none-of-them-use-as-a-phone. This texting/instagramming/whatsapping/selfie-taking tool is glued to their hands. Pretty soon it will be small enough to glue under skin and replace our brains. But I digress into post-apocalyptic thriller movie scripts.
Instead, let’s move into post-one-stop shop scripts. You see, the problem with our fixation on creating one-stop shops is that they still require a location. That’s fine for schools that have one student. But if you have more than one student (let’s go wild and say you have two students), a problem arises: they move around. They can be in two places at one time, but you can only be in one place at one time. How’s that one-stop shop working for you now? It’s still better than trying to force one student to be in two places at the same time, but the problem still exists. And it is exasperated when you have more than one campus or, heaven forbid, you jumped on the online course trend also from the 1990s (the pre-apocalyptic, pre-Y2K glory days). How many times a day do your staff send an email with the message, “Please come to the Registrar’s Office to pick up Form A”? OK, to make it easier, how many times in the last hour? That’s what I thought.
Here’s a radical idea: how about treating the one-stop shop as though the student is the location? Through the marvels of technology, I can be in thousands of places at one time – hence the need for anti-spam legislation. Why force students to come visit the Registrar’s Office? Do we want them to stand in line to validate our need for a one-stop shop? Are we lonely? Do we think students come to university to get to know the Registrar? (I can understand that in Kate Ross’s situation, but for the rest of us I am sorry to pop your ego balloon!).
Why not use that selfie-taking-machine for good and make it the centre of our services? You probably already offer online services such as bank payments, course registration, transcript orders, etc. If you are not sure what’s still needed, why not create an online help-desk? And, based on student needs, respond with mobile services (that means services that move around, like students do…). Finally, write your own rant about how there’s a loss of community-building opportunities because we’ve removed the need for line-ups in the Registrar’s Office. How else will students meet other students? (I can hear you now, “Grant, just one rant at a time, please!”)
Please don’t spend any more time and money on building a one-stop shop. Some institutions (like this one below) built an entire facility as a one-stop shop! Instead, put your resources into mobile services and enter the 2000s era.
And while you are at it maybe move around a little bit and get used to the idea of offering services in thousands of locations. But if you really want to go back to the 1990s, Netflix has all the Fresh Prince of Bel Air episodes that you can watch with your mobile phone or your desktop computer, or….