Working in IT, you solve problems, improve workflows, and are invested in doing everything you can keep applications and services running, so to facilitate learning on campus. Take a moment, though, to put yourself in a student’s shoes, and imagine what it’s like on the other side of IT when things go awry. Let’s set the scene: You’re a freshman at a university, and it’s your very first finals week. The WiFi is spotty in your dorm, forcing you to study in the crowded, loud student center. At the library, the checkout system is down, so you can’t access important materials you previously reserved. Your computer crashes midway through writing an essay, and if there’s a backup saved somewhere, you can’t find it. You forget the password to the class website, and after entering the wrong one too many times, you’re locked out. Needless to say, finals do not go well for you.
For college students, technology is ubiquitous—nearly everything students encounter, from meal plans to library checkout to coursework access, is tech-enabled. When technology fails, students suffer. But, a strong IT department does far more than just prevent or fix service disruptions; ideally, college and university IT departments show students how to get the most out of technology, as well as enable them to report and resolve issues.
Tweet this: Technology has become a main tool of college students to ensure their success. How can IT keep up?
As a higher education IT department leader, you must strive to make technology a helping force, not a hindrance, to support students’ learning. Here are three strategies you and your department can implement to improve students’ satisfaction, and ensure their academic success during their time at school:
Institute an intuitive self-service portal
The self-service portal is the face of a higher education institution’s IT department, so it must be user-friendly. Model functionality after content or commerce sites such as Amazon.com, Facebook, and other sites students interact with regularly. Make navigation easy, highlight frequently requested information, and remove technical jargon, such as IMAP, cookies, phishing, or malware.
One big benefit to the portal is its 24/7 availability—this is particularly handy since 3 a.m. questions, 5 a.m. printer problems, and so many other student tech issues occur far outside the traditional 9 to 5 workday. An intuitive self-service portal, capable of resolving common issues and providing a clear path to report problems (along with an estimated time for response), results in a student body that can focus on their top priority: a solid education.
Offer walk-up support
Many college students have owned computers for years and are competent, informed users. But, it would be shortsighted to assume computer competency for every student—and even longtime computer users may have developed poor habits. In addition to a 24/7 self-service portal, IT departments should create opportunities for face-to-face encounters by having outposts throughout campus.
During in-person conversations, it’s easy for IT staffers to do more than just solve a problem—you can dig into its underlying cause, identifying poor PC habits and sharing helpful shortcuts. Face-to-face engagement allows you to share knowledge that will help students become better technology users and might also prevent future problems. These encounters also help inform your IT organization, pinpointing where students need more education and resources.
Tweet this: In addition to a 24/7 self-service portal, IT departments should create opportunities for face-to-face encounters with students
Stay abreast of new technology and services
The onus is on higher education IT departments to be aware of new technologies and services that have an impact on student outcomes. Since students bring their own devices to school, IT has to be prepared to support the very latest and shiniest computers, tablets, and other devices. As well as gadgets, IT departments also must stay current on innovations. How can you apply trends, from augmented reality to group chat to the usage of data trackers to further students’ education and school experience? For IT, it’s advantageous to stay ahead of the technology curve, so you can not only deliver a better experience for students, but also earn their trust and engagement.
Technology is a fixture on campuses, influencing so many parts of students’ education and day-to-day activities, that any issues, poor usability, or difficult communications can have a negative impact on student satisfaction, and could even cause a dip in the retention rate. As college and university IT leaders know all too well, a strong IT department and IT service management (ITSM) system is foundational to students’ happiness, and even more importantly, their ability to learn. With the three strategies outlined above, IT departments can provide students with vital tools and information, and create a two-way dialogue that benefits both students and your IT department staffers.
Next up: Eight colleges share how ITSM helps them exceed the technical needs of students and faculty.