3 Ways IT Service Management Can Set Students Up for Success

Posted by on May 03, 2019

3 Ways IT Service Management Can Set Students Up for Success

Day in and day out, your IT team is solving problems, improving workflows, and making sure applications and services keep running. Despite your focus, however, issues and outages are unavoidable, and eventually make a showing once in a while. When things like this happen, your department may get bombarded with tickets, phone calls and emails. And while your team may be diligently working on the issue, the effect this can have on student learning and productivity may have more repercussions that you may realize. Let’s take a moment to put ourselves in a student's shoes, and imagine what it's like on the other side of IT when things go awry:

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 is powered by technology, from meal plan swipes to library checkouts to coursework access. While failures and outages are hopefully infrequent, it should be clear that when this occurs, students suffer. In addition to working to prevent or fix service disruptions, strong IT departments can do far more to empower their students. Ideally, they show students across their institution how to get the most out of technology, as well as self-serve, including reporting and resolving issues.

As a higher education IT department leader, it’s critical to students’ success that the technology you’ve implemented for your college or institution a helping force, not a hindrance. Here are three strategies you and your department can implement to improve students satisfaction and ensure their academic success during their time at school:  

1. Institute an intuitive self-service portal

The self-service portal can be the face of your institution’s IT department—as long as it’s user-friendly. Take a cue from Facebook or Amazon and model its architecture and functionality after content or commerce sites you know that students interact with regularly. Navigation should be easy, frequently accessed or requested information should have high visibility, and there should be no trace of technical jargon, including IMAP, cookies, phishing, or malware. Your self-service portal should be designed in the vein of your end-users. If you’re not sure, gather a few students once you’ve staged it for some testing and feedback!

One big benefit to a self-service portal is its 24/7 availability. College students often get their schoolwork done outside normal working hours of 9 AM to 5 PM. A 24/7 self-service portal is particularly handy if 2 a.m. login issues or 5 a.m. printer problems arise. More than anything else however, an intuitive self-service portal that is capable of helping students resolve common issues and provides a clear path to report problems (along with an SLA or estimated time for response) means your student body can focus on their top priority: a solid education.

2. Offer walk-up support

Nearly all—99.9%—of college students are digital natives, meaning many have owned and know how to use computers well. However, it would be shortsighted to assume total computer competency for every student, as even longtime computer users can develop poor digital habits. To help service these users, in addition to a 24/7 self-service portal, IT departments should have outposts throughout campus.

These outposts not only create opportunities for face-to-face encounters with students, but you can do so much more than solve their problems. During an in-person conversation, you can go beyond a problem and dig into its underlying cause, as well as identify poor PC habits and share helpful shortcuts and tips. Moreover, face-to-face engagement invaluable in that it fosters community, gives your team an opportunity to put faces to names, allows you to share knowledge that will help students become better technology users overall, and may also prevent future problems. These interactions can also inform your IT organization where it can improve and be more proactive, helping you pinpoint where students might need more education and resources.

3. Stay abreast of new technology and services

New technologies are emerging every day. And since students bring their own devices to school, the onus is on IT departments to be aware and prepared to support the very latest and shiniest computers, tablets, and other devices that have an impact on student outcomes. 

But it’s not just about the newest gadget. IT departments have to stay on top of technological innovations—like AI, machine learning, augmented reality, chatbots, and messaging apps—that could potentially transform the student learning experience. As the leader of your IT team, you have to constantly ask yourself: How can you apply these trends to further students' education and experience? Staying ahead of the technology curve not only helps your IT department deliver a better experience for students, but helps earn their trust and keeps them engaged.

Technology is a fixture on campuses, directly responsible for helping facilitate so much of students' education and day-to-day activities. While hopefully far and few in between,  any issues like outages, or simply poor usability or lack of communication channels can have a incredibly 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 help create an invaluable two-way dialogue from which both your students and staffers benefit.  

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