Coming soon: video interface counseling

Written by Fernando A. Miller

As Riverside City College  reaches its 100-year anniversary,  school counselors are upping their game to get students prepared for the future.

The start of the fall semester began the process of allowing students to sign up for counseling appointments in person, over the phone and online. But a recent development will soon provide a new channel of receiving information from a counselor. RCC will soon introduce face-to-face online video sessions.  

“The counselors on campus receive a lot of support and we’re always busy,” explains Ellen Brown-Drinkwater, head of the counseling Department. “We’ve already been approved by the school board … we have the software and a team of counselors that are in the piloting stages to initiate counselor appointments via Internet video chat.”

Similar to Skype’s video chat services, RCC will be introducing video interface services through PrepTalk.

Some online security concerns have already been brought to the attention of Rafal Helszer, one of the  counselors from the department, but he is confident about what PrepTalk has to offer.

“The service is going to be great. For the students and for us, the counselors,” said Rafal, “We don’t want to stop changing our ways for the students.”

The department is taking the careful measures to make the upgrade seamless. Brown-Drinkwater and the rest of the department is happy to announce that these video appointments will be ready for student use by the upcoming fall semester of 2016.  

In the meanwhile, another feature will be added to the school’s online services.

“Hopefully by the spring semester of 2016, the students will be able to complete their Student Education Plan all online,” Brown-Drinkwater said.

Getting students to come in and complete their SEP is the department’s most important goal for the students to meet.

A student employee of the counseling department who sits in the front desk views all the students coming in and out for their in-person counselor appointments.

“Since the beginning of the semester, it’s been very slow,” said Chelsea Gibbons.

It may not look like it, but seeing an empty waiting room in the counseling office building is actually a good thing to the department head.

“We’re getting more and more students signing up for appointments online, allowing them to walk in five minutes prior to the appointment and walk out about 30 minutes later,” said Brown-Drinkwater.  

To get an idea of the student’s attendance with their counselors, during the week of Oct. 19-23, RCC counselors sat down with 357 students who had scheduled appointments. In comparison with the 173 students, who set an appointment but did not attend or cancelled their session, the counseling department is trying to reduce this number.

“This past Monday alone we had 18 no shows,” explained Brown-Drinkwater, “We know life can get in the way and brings about a few speed bumps for students.”

“We at least would prefer the students to call or reschedule,” added Rafal, “We’re here for the success of the students. If we get notice that a student cancels, it just opens up the opportunity for another student to come in and receive guidance about their educational careers.”

If a student were to cancel too often, “over three scheduled appointments,” said Rafal, the student will not be able to schedule another appointment for the rest of the semester.

The department recommends that students commit to the original scheduled time for their appointment to avoid long periods of waiting for the next available session.

RCC’s counseling department will continue to send emails to students at the school to visit their counselors or to take part in the many workshops.  Until then, the department remains hopeful about the new technological developments.

“We expect the numbers of students receiving their SEP to rise once we get our video chat sessions up and running,” said Brown-Drinkwater.