This semester has seen a greater return to pre-pandemic equipment lending activity in universities with a number of connect2 customers getting in touch as part of their preparations. Students are finding there’s more opportunity for hands-on tuition following the shift back to learning on campus. This is great to see, with students better able to master using video, audio and other studio equipment with in-person support.
New connect2 functionalities had been developed to support continuation of equipment use through the pandemic. They have enabled creative projects to continue as far as possible albeit with adjustments made where necessary. For example, during lockdown and campus closures larger kits may have been swapped out for lighter, more mobile options to support lone working, and to allow for postal delivery and returns in place of in-person collection.
Today, these developments in connect2 remain important as we all continue to navigate a safe path while covid remains a risk. Connect2 supports a safe environment in the checkout store in a number of ways. Automatic time pads between reservations allow for sufficient time to clean returned equipment or quarantine it between users. Connect2 also enables stores to continue limiting checkouts/ins at any one time, to avoid exceeding a room’s max capacity. All pickups and returns are scheduled to be safely spaced out over store opening hours. As well as protecting student users, it allows workers to maintain their own safe distancing from both their customers, and in larger stores, from each other.
Equipment checkout software has always been used to cut down on unnecessary contact time with students for routine services. For example, the online booking portal in connect2 dispenses with the need for students to inquire in person about resource availability. Students and faculty simply book what they need in an online catalog. Think along the lines of Amazon or eBay – it’s become a familiar routine for many of us, browsing, selecting and ordering items online. With equipment items reserved in this way and for a mutually convenient time, students simply pick them up when scheduled while attending campus.
This advance reservation facility ensures that waiting times at the store are kept to a minimum. When staff know who’s arriving to borrow which items and when, they can have the kit clean and ready to safely handover without unnecessary delays or lines forming.
Advance bookings do more than remove the risk and stress of too many students turning up for checkouts at the same time. Students making their own advance reservations in connect2 unburden equipment store staff from fielding countless availability inquiries by email or phone. More time is saved and stress reduced by dispensing with the need to explain or negotiate the authorized length of loans with each student – instead the borrowing rules are embedded in the connect2 system with students fully informed at the point of booking each item online. It all adds up to making a big difference – with connect2, checkouts take less than five minutes and can often be done and dusted in under one. Without it, checkouts are reported to take closer to 15 minutes.
While many universities previously allowed some number of walk up checkouts (i.e. without advance reservation), this activity has undoubtedly become much less common now. Pre-covid, an average of 70% of reservations were made online in connect2 in advance. So the expectation and habit to book in advance was already high, saving multiple hours of staff admin each week and helping students to be better organized. Now with health and safety as another big reason, many universities are likely to be operating at or close to 100% advance reservation equipment checkouts. It becomes a simple message: if you don’t have a reservation, you don’t get the equipment!
This will mean all students are in and out of the store in minimal time. They can also renew items themselves without staff assistance, simply by going online. Connect2 works out if there is sufficient availability to allow the renewal. If there isn’t then the automated reminders will tell the student to return the item as originally scheduled.
As greater normality returns and covid precautions potentially relax, operating an advance reservation system will still have major benefits. With the administrative side of equipment lending already taken care of, it allows more time to advise students while they’re in the store, e.g. on production techniques and equipment settings. Simply put, booking ahead always pay off in one way or another and will make sense to continue. As ever, we’re here to support you in providing students with the resources they need, so please get in touch for any advice or questions you may have on equipment checkout best practice. Meanwhile, our infographic on safe equipment circulation is also available here for further ideas and guidance.