Rocky Mountain-Cascade Regional Coordinator DeLinda Martin-Huggins and Associate Regional Coordinator Michelle Gietl said there were a few challenges in their path to making online membership available to students at their colleges, but they persevered and were rewarded with increased membership, a more streamlined process for those joining and less work for the chapter advisors.
Michelle, who also serves as an advisor for Alpha Sigma Xi at Columbia Gorge Community College, said her chapter chose online membership acceptance for a number of reasons.
“We took into consideration convenience for our students, especially our distance education students who do not come to campus, but would benefit from Phi Theta Kappa membership,” she said. “Members fill out everything online, pay online and they are done.”
Michelle added that not having to manually enter student information into the website also means fewer errors.
“Our registrar was concerned about FERPA issues,” she said. “But after I was able to put together a presentation with the information, she was willing to do it.”
DeLinda said her college — Portland Community College (PCC) — wanted to offer online membership acceptance as soon as it became available, but it did take some effort to accomplish the transition.
After several meetings with the Student Records office, the Center for Excellence and Phi Theta Kappa advisors from each of the college’s four chapters, DeLinda said PCC was able to work around the FERPA issue by using the following process:
· Student Records sends advisors a list of eligible students at the beginning of each term.
· Advisors send eligibility email to students with a link to a release form to receive an application from Phi Theta Kappa’s Headquarters.
· The link stays live for three weeks, and students have until the last day of the term to join.
Both advisors have some advice for chapters who want to start using online acceptance.
“Once we determined a process that benefitted other college departments, instead of just a benefit to our PTK chapter, then we were all able to work together to come up with a solution,” DeLinda said. “It really is about finding someone within the college who wants to make it happen, and finding a way to engage all parties involved.”
Since making online membership acceptance available, chapters at PCC and Columbia Gorge have seen a significant increase in membership acceptance and ease of payment/application for invited members.
“The advisors are spending much less time on applications and making more time available to spend with members and officers,” DeLinda added.
Michelle encourages chapters that want to implement online membership to communicate with other chapters already using the system.
“During our advisor meetings at regional conferences, we discuss online acceptance and the barriers that prevent chapters from implementing it,” she said. “I encourage all chapters to implement online acceptance as part of their best practices.”
For more information about implementing online membership acceptance contact Melissa Price, Membership Services Senior Specialist, at email@example.com.