Online office hours allow counselors to help more students

Marcus Ellis, Staff Writer

Cosumnes River College’s counseling department is now offering students the opportunity to interact with them more frequently through their new online live chat services.

Spearheaded by CRC counselor Monica Cranston, with the help of Christina Ocrant, an educational media and web design specialist, the CRC live chat service is a platform which students can access to get immediate and timely answers to their questions, according to the 2013-14 CASSL innovative grant report form.

“Students have questions regarding all sorts of things like their career goals, personal matters, juggling their work with school and other bureaucratic questions about the college. They worry about this stuff,” Cranston said. “So we thought, why not try out live-in real time-access to a counselor a few times a week where anybody from anywhere can access a counselor for general questions.”

Often times, students have trouble getting their questions answered through the campus counseling department, due to either overcrowding or the long waiting periods.

“Anytime I’ve ever tried to make an appointment, either I don’t go at the right time or there isn’t enough room available because they are so backed up and overcrowded,” said Cierra Gonsalves, 21, an English major. “Even when you do get to talk to a counselor, you have to realize they’re on a very tight schedule and will probably have to rush with you in order to see everyone available.”

Gonsalves said that the program will be good for the campus.

“I think it’s great that they’re making a program where quick questions can be asked and answered with a click of a button,” she said. “This is definitely going to be a very beneficial tool for the campus.”

Questions and topics ranging from deadlines, prerequisites and other general inquiries and concerns can be addressed through this new live chat service.

“Pretty much absolutely anything, except something that involves evaluation of actual transcripts,” Cranston said.

The students whose questions that are unable to be answered through the online service will be instructed to go to the counseling office for a more in-depth session.

Anytime I’ve ever tried to make an appointment, either I don’t go at the right time or there isn’t enough room available because they are so backed up and overcrowded.”

— 21-year-old English major Cierra Gonsalves

Advertised on CRC’s web page in the news items column, this online live chat resource, though in the early developmental and pilot stages, has already begun to facilitate and aid students.

“We were capturing anywhere from  nine to 14 people in one hour sessions,” Cranston said. “That’s a lot of students in one hour. When you do the face-to-face in person sessions up here, we don’t see nine students in one hour, there’s no way.”

This innovative live chat service is available to help students with common questions and concerns, for instances where’s it’s not really necessarily for them to come in or schedule an appointment with a counselor.

“Being a transfer student, I see this as a very helpful and convenient method of getting answers to simple questions. This online assistance will also make them [counselors] more accessible and available to students and would encourage students to seek them out for help and guidance,” said Cynthia Mesa, 20, an international relations major.

Though there are only three counselors at the moment working with the live chat service, the plan is to encourage all counselors to play a more integral role in assisting students via online services.

“At the moment, I’m doing about three hours a week currently, and I’m hoping to increase that to maybe an hour a day,” Cranston said.