IT support services for education

In the last 12 months IT support services for education establishments have undergone a dramatic transformation. The move to remote learning has changed how IT support is delivered. Before the pandemic many schools, further education and HE institutions provided on-site support, with service desk analysts and technicians on hand to resolve issues for the user community including staff and students alike.

Now remote IT support is the norm and demand has increased significantly as teaching, admin, research and other activities have moved online with a greater reliance on technology.

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Even with schools and colleges reopening in March, and face-to-face learning expected to resume in universities after the Easter break, online learning looks like it’s here to stay. 51% of educators believe that remote education is a sustainable way of continuing to offer high quality learning in the future.

Trends in IT support for the education sector

Now, that the initial mass deployment of remote learning / remote working strategies have bedded in, we’re noticing a number of key trends.

Level of IT support is linked to remote learning success: Being able to access IT support services easily and with rapid response times is crucial for successful remote learning outcomes. Both for teaching staff and students. Any technology issues that impact on a student’s ability to access to education are going to have a detrimental impact, whether it’s a teacher unable to take a live online class or a student unable to log in to resources. Adequate provision of support is therefore essential during teaching hours as well as private study times.

It’s about morale and engagement too: How engaged students are with remote learning is also linked to their experience of IT support. Many students are struggling to motivate themselves and any difficulties with technology can be overwhelming. Younger students, who are not as used to working independently, may find IT issues particularly challenging and some may lack the confidence to ask for support. Clear communications about how to access IT support and multiple channels for raising tickets, are vital.

Teaching staff are also likely to find remote learning challenging and, as a result, their job satisfaction levels have fallen. Reducing technology barriers and providing high quality support will ensure that your IT team department are not solely held responsible for a poor teaching experience.

Demand for flexible IT support: With many people having to juggle family commitments with remote work (such as home schooling their own children) teaching, admin, faculty and support staff may need to work outside of normal working hours. Many organisations are extending IT support hours into the evenings to ensure productivity levels are not adversely affected by IT issues.

Virtual desktops: To support remote learning many universities and other institutions have rolled out desktop and app virtualisation services. Solutions like Windows Virtual Desktop provide users with access to all the systems and applications they need to do their job – whether that’s teaching, learning or other roles – in the cloud. Users get the same desktop experience on their own device as they would on their work computer. Their virtual machine is set up just like their desktop in their office, in the ICT suite, library or on other corporate-owned machines. To ensure end users experience zero disruption and high application availability, consider how this service will be managed and what support your user community will need. IT support is also a critical part of user adoption of new technologies.

Self-service portals: Another key trend is the increase in demand for self-service IT support portals. These don’t replace analysts and technicians but can help to reduce ticket volumes and streamline support requests. Self-service portals provide ‘0 line IT support’ in the form of knowledgebase content so that your user community can troubleshoot common issues for themselves. As most education institutions are full of tech-savvy individuals, this can have a very positive impact on productivity and downtime.

Self-service portals also allow your user community to report issues that are not time critical, make requests for software, hardware, changes to user accounts and a variety of other common IT requests. This helps both users and IT teams, making it easy to log tickets and also to manage workflows.

Shared support services: Some organisations that have traditionally delivered on-site IT support to their user community, have struggled to provide remote support and manage the increase in ticket volumes and demand for extended hours. That’s why we’re seeing a substantial increase in enquires for shared support services.

A shared IT service desk offers you highly qualified analysts providing the right coverage for your user community, without the associated costs of hiring additional internal staff. This solution can scale with demand, allowing a certain amount of flexibility if ticket volumes increase or fall. With the continuing uncertainty about when education will return to ‘normal’, a shared IT service desk can be a cost effective option for delivering the support students and staff need.

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