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Academic accommodation services move online for the summer

By Raneem Al-Ozzi

Ryerson’s Academic Accommodation Support (AAS) office is transferring its registration services online for the summer to accommodate more students.

During the spring and summer semesters, AAS will test the online system to ensure it is accessible and efficient. The system is planned to be in place before the start of the fall 2017 semester, which is AAS’s busiest time of the year.

These changes are to address the predicted increase of the number of students registered with AAS, which is increasing at an annual rate of about 12 per cent.

“By moving some elements of our service online to streamline it for [students], it will free up more of our time to help us meet with them and solve more complex problems face-to-face,” said Marc Emond, assistant director for academic accommodations and learning.

In the 2018-2019 academic year, the number of students registered with AAS is expected to exceed the 3,000 mark at 3,119 students.

According to AAS, students who are looking to register with the office will be able to provide their personal information and upload any documents on a secure online platform or book appointments online.

Using the current system, students are required to manually fill in their forms, and then submit them in-person. A process that takes longer and makes it harder to accommodate more students.

The new online system will be an extension of Clockwork, a simplified registration system for students eligible for academic accommodations that AAS implemented in 2014.

The online system allows students to send their accommodation letters to professors at the start of each semester, book accommodating exams or make specific requests that do not require students to go in or drop off hard copies.

This may provide faster service to new students who are seeking accommodation, and can also allow accommodation plans to take place early in the semester. For returning students, the goal is to have more drop-in times and more availability so we increase our capacity for person-to-person contact, said Emond.

Third-year arts and contemporary studies student Pauline Nguyen registered with AAS this month. She said the current website is daunting and loaded with logistics and forms.

Nguyen, who completed her registration in-person said the process was quick and efficient, but that she still initially felt overwhelmed by the website and it could be more accessible. “I feel like [the website] might not be the best thing for people looking for academic support,” she said.

Registering online can be stress-inducing for students who would rather speak to someone in-person, said Nguyen, “You could be sitting there wondering, did my form even submit? When will I hear back? … A student might be really stressed in that moment and may not hear back from anyone.” But Nguyen also said there are some students who would rather not come in or even speak over the phone, so online registrations may be convenient for others.

Sam Shao, a fourth-year chemistry student said he prefers in-person registration because he knows who he’s communicating with.

Shao registered with AAS over three years ago. He said he got his accommodations in place about a month into his first semester at Ryerson.

“We need to accommodate more students. They all need to be helped and sometimes one person is just not enough,” said Maria Taylor, the intake administrator at the AAS.

Taylor said the online switch will only be partial and there will still be someone from AAS to do in-person interviews for students who want it.

The registration process at the accessibility office at the University of Toronto is not online. Similar to AAS, forms are available online but in order to register, a student must manually fill out the forms and submit them through email, fax or in-person, said Tanya Lewis, director of U of T’s office. She said an online system would make their services more accessible.

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