YCBM helps Virtual Learning Academy make student connections
YouCanBookMe powers online scheduling for the Virtual Learning Academy, making it easier to connect with students and parents in the virtual classroom.
4 min read
“We would be lost without it. There's no way that we can function effectively without this kind of technology.”
How they use it:
The virtual school uses YCBM to schedule thousands of meetings every month. Student assessments, parent meetings, and academic help, all funnel through YCBM to keep the learning on track.
Minimum notice periods
Paula Turgeon Instructor & Program Manager, Virtual Learning Academy Charter School
In the ranks of YouCanBookMe power users, the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School is right up there.
Averaging more than 10,000 bookings a month, VLACS instructors use YCBM to schedule meetings with students, parents, and each other.
It’s all in the name, really.
VLACS is a virtual school, based in New Hampshire, that offers courses for all ages, including Elementary, Middle, High School and Adult Education, in a completely online environment.
Paula Turgeon is an AP Math instructor and the go-to person for onboarding and troubleshooting all the tech with YCBM.
“The majority of our high school students are part-time,” she says. ”Some schools don’t have the demand, or maybe the resources, to offer certain advanced subjects, for example. So a student might take those classes with us, in addition to their regular school load.”
But this isn’t the classroom that you might remember.
“Our instructors are more like coaches in many ways, because we don’t teach a subject to a full class of students. It’s all online. Our curriculum is available to students 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I'm not available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
And that’s where YouCanBookMe comes in!
VLACS uses YCBM to schedule all of its student meetings, parent check-ins, and advising.
An instructor typically has several types of meetings with students:
welcoming students and parents to the course
holding an assessment to make sure a student is on track
having monthly sessions with parents
quick meetings to get help on a tricky topic
So the need for a tool that specializes in scheduling for education is profound.
“We’ve got a lot of accounts now. But it isn't just scheduling for our teachers,” says Paula. “Our school counseling department uses it. So does our academic help desk and our technical help desk.
"Everybody is very appreciative. They know if they didn't have YouCanBookMe it would be a lot of legwork. Actually, we couldn't function without it."
Paula was the first in the company to try out YouCanBookMe.
"I head up our training and Instructional Support team does all the onboarding for new instructors. Obviously scheduling time with students is a huge part of that. So when we decided to move from our old provider, I piloted YouCanBookMe to see if I liked it, and make sure it was user friendly. And the answer was a resounding yes!"
Instructors hold regular office hours, so students could just show up in the Zoom room to have a quick meeting. But Paul says most students prefer to schedule online.
"It's so easy to use. More students are gravitating towards scheduling appointments versus dropping in during our office hours. Our full time instructors can work with up to 140 students, so if you're just dropping in, you could be waiting a while.
They need to get to soccer practice and ballet practice. Students when they have an hour, or half an hour, free and they need to do it at that time.
You can spend an inordinate amount of time going back and forth scheduling via email, an potentially two students could schedule at the same time. So, this fills a critical need by facilitating the work that our instructors do."
A seamless part of the education journey
VLACS makes it super easy for students to get in touch when they need help. All of their course pages are set up with information and links to scheduling pages.
“First we send a welcome email. The link to schedule a meeting is embedded directly in there so it’s just one click to get right to the calendar to schedule their first session.
The link is on all of our signatures in Gmail, and it's embedded in all of our course home pages."
"So there are at least three different areas where they can pick that meeting link up."
YouCanBookMe has saved Paula's team tens of thousands of hours in the three years they have been using it.
"I don't love email. And if you're going back and forth with one student five times, it takes up a lot of time. Scheduling online is immensely helpful."
Flexible & customizable
VLACS uses templates to ensure all their booking pages have the same branding and tone of voice, and that students have a consistent experience. But instructors have a lot of freedom to operate the way that works best for them and their students.
“We tell our instructors, whichever way they want to use it, they can. Because, once it's set up, it's seamless. You don’t have to return to it.
“From my perspective as a trainer, that is huge. Because that was a big downside with our previous scheduling tool. People would have to go in almost on a weekly basis and change hours or change other settings. We don’t have to do that now.”
So what are the features that VLACS instructors use most?
Most of Paula's meetings are routine for all students. She loves that she can list all the different kinds of meetings on one booking page using the Appointment Types feature.
Minimum notice periods
Being able to limit how soon a student can book with the Minimum Notice setting is one of the most used features.
“A lot of instructors really take advantage of that, so they're not surprised. They usually set it to 12 or 24 hours so they know they won’t ever be unprepared for a last-minute meeting.”
Not all VLACS instructors are full time, so they love that it's so easy to be very specific about when they're available for student meetings. The Custom Availability feature lets them add an event to their Google calendar when they want students to schedule with them.
Notifications & reminders
Paula asks her instructors to send a reminder 24 hours in advance, and another one hour in advance.
“It's rare for a student to not have their own phone. So when they schedule, they get the notifications. Kids are pretty adept at that at a pretty young age even now.”
But it’s not just the students who can get the notifications.
"Being able to add parents is a huge help. So not only does the student get the reminder, the parent also gets the reminder. I think that's one thing that makes everybody's life easier."
As the main point of contact within VLACS, Paula does most of the troubleshooting if something comes up. But she knows the YCBM team has her back.
“I've always found YouCanBookMe to be very receptive whenever I've had questions. I think the communication has been amazing.
"And I can't say this enough: we've had no issues from a technology standpoint. It always just works. If there are issues, it's usually user error. And, with those, it's rare that i actually have to go to a human because there's a really good Knowledge Base."
Scheduling with benefits
Paula has seen an unexpected but pleasant side effect of having students schedule their meetings.
“Scheduling in advance forces students to learn important executive functioning skills. How to schedule an appointment, why it’s important to show up, and how you need to plan for it.
Those are things that I don't think we always talked about in my brick and mortar school, where the teacher controls so much of the schedule. But it's a vital experience that helps students master these critical skills.”
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Kate was an early YouCanBookMe employee and loved supporting our Customers for almost a decade. She's now focused on spreading the word about online scheduling, how to improve productivity, and the Oxford comma.
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