It’s that time of the year again: the start of a new semester!
And a new semester means a lot of new students. But how do you make sure all of the new students handle your equipment with care and bring it back on time, every time? Here are a few ways to kick-start the new semester and keep all of your students accountable for the gear they are using.
1. Bring students up to speed
First things first: students should know the rules for reserving equipment. If they don’t, it might become quite a challenge for you to keep chaos out of the equipment room. We all know how important good communication is. The easiest way to spread the word and make sure they understand all of the rules, is by going from class to class. At the Art and Interactive Multimedia Department at the College of New Jersey, this is how they have it set up:
At the start of the semester, I do a demo on how to make reservations on their end and then I explain all the rules. One of the rules we have enforced is that students have to make a reservation an hour before they come to check out the equipment. That way, the cage worker has time to set up the reservation, make sure everything is good for the checkout and everything. So that’s been super helpful. – Brett Ratner
If you’re dealing with hundreds of classes and lots of new students each semester, there might not be enough time to communicate all the rules in person.Adding a section about equipment usage to the school’s website is another way to communicate best practices to your students. You can use this section for general information (eg. opening hours, rules & regulations) and to explain how to correctly make reservations and check out equipment.
You could also tell students about the rules that apply to lending equipment in person; when they do their first equipment pick-up.
2. Create a Student Agreement
Now that students are aware of the steps and the different rules for booking and using the school’s equipment, you might want to ask them for a signature during their first visit to the equipment room. This will help you keep them accountable.
When asked for a signature, everyone seems to pay just that tiny bit more attention to whatever it is they’re agreeing to. So here’s another great opportunity to quickly remind students about the rules you have established and any fines or late fees that may apply. The agreement is a great way to provide upfront expectations about actions and consequences when it comes to renting or borrowing gear.
This way, you’ll have a paper trail to fall back on so you can apply the correct fee whenever students bring back equipment late, damaged or in poor condition.
💡CHEQROOM Tip: Did you know you can customize and attach your own Student Agreements in CHEQROOM? It even allows you to ask for an electronic signature on the spot. Go check it out!
3. Fines and Rewards
Fines and late fees are often a good start to make students aware of the consequences of their actions. You can block them temporarily from making any reservations, or you can charge a fee, depending on the rules they’ve agreed to at the start of the semester.
If you choose to apply fines and late fees for students who don’t follow the rules, it’s recommended to also give rewards to those that do follow the rules. Rewarding students for positive actions will help them take responsibility for their own success.
How to reward them? Why not keep your most expensive equipment in a separate category and only give those students that have shown effort and respect access. It’s a great way to keep students motivated and encourage others to do the same.
4. Involve your students
Involving students in the process of reserving or even handling some of the equipment in the equipment room, will make them more invested. And if they are more invested, they’ll show more responsibility when an item goes missing or gets returned late.
That’s why you might want to consider giving your students access to the school’s inventory so they can see what’s available and make the necessary reservations. This will allow them to get more invested in the whole process, and do some planning and scheduling on their own. It creates responsibility, and since they make their own bookings, you’ll be able to hold them more accountable.
Another way to get students more involved is by assigning some of them as student workers. It’s always a smart idea to have some extra help during the busy hours at the equipment cage, and it will empower them at the same time. Win-win!
5. Involve technology
Before you can tick all 4 boxes mentioned above, there’s one crucial factor that needs to be considered as well: technology.
Using technology, you allow students to find the necessary information quickly and easily. If they’re not sure on how to book equipment for a specific class or project, they could find the necessary information on the website, or in a general email, or on any other platform used at the school or university. Having all these options available will avoid students coming up with excuses on why they didn’t follow the rules or still haven’t returned that one camera.
Take advantage of technology and get an easy-to-use equipment reservation tool, preferably with a mobile app (hint, hint 😄), that promotes student involvement and triggers their enthusiasm. If students are encouraged to take some steps on their own, they’ll learn how to be more responsible and will understand the importance of being held accountable.