End-User Support for Device Lending Programs
A device lending program creates new challenges in providing end-user support. In particular, while users are off-campus their device is on a network that your IT staff have neither control nor insight. During shelter-in-place, users cannot simply come to the tech office or ask for support the following day in school. Instead, all support must be provided at a distance.
HELP DESK OPERATIONS
School districts are accustomed to operating a help desk operation. Documenting and tracking trouble tickets becomes more challenging because you have more variables to keep track of and control for in order to understand whether or not you have a systemic problem. Documentation and asset management are the most critical aspects of your IT department’s help desk operation.
Especially during a shelter-in-place order, it is important to define a finite number of channels for students, caregivers, and staff to initiate a support request. You are your team can then triage and manage support tickets as well as document and track them.
You should always make multiple channels available to initiate technical support in the event that the technical failure prevents a user from accessing a particular channel. If your only channel is via an online form, and connectivity is the issue, that user will not be able to initiate a support request. Regardless of the number of ways a school district enables its users to initiate a support request, ensure that they are all documented.
A digital system for documenting and tracking help desk incidents or tickets is recommended. This will allow you to track types of incidents and other details like the time and location of the device when the issue occurred and when support was provided. This will help your IT staff find systemic issues and measure response times.
Even relatively small device lending programs can keep a technician so busy that recognizing trends or patterns is nearly impossible without a good documentation system. Further, month-over-month, if response times are growing, it could be a sign of a systemic issue or provide evidence that your technical staff capacity is no longer sufficient to support the new arrangement.
School districts that do not operate commercial help desk platforms should consider implementing one.
Commerical help desk platforms are readily available, and basic functionality can be as little as $5 per month per technician. Fully-featured systems can be found for less than $100 per month per technician.
You should consider the cost of implementing a commercial system against the time spent by technicians creating a home-grown system or manually managing tasks. Before school districts begin investigating platforms and comparing features, start by considering what success looks like for your school district. Do users need most problems solved in an hour? In 4 hours? In 8 hours? In a day?
The speed of resolution will likely vary depending on the nature of the actual issue: hardware, network, software configuration, user error, or user training. Success must be agreed upon between school district leadership and your IT team to allow your IT team to engineer an appropriate solution. By agreeing on what success looks like, the sophistication of your help desk and your hardware break-fix/replacement procedures will vary. As school districts investigate help desk solutions, there are a number of considerations to weigh.
- Does your help desk system allow technicians to log communications with end-users automatically and to see a history of interactions with other technicians?
- Can you easily share prewritten support like directions to login to your video conferencing platform and a link to a video how-to on your website?
- Does your help desk system allow you to see contact information from your SIS to enable you to communicate over multiple channels to facilitate support most appropriate to the task? For example, a support request may be sent to you via email, but your technician knows to solve the issue, a phone conversation would be more effective.
- Are you able to easily accept inbound requests from phone messages, emails, or even chat or social media and translate those into help desk tickets?
- During a shelter-in-place order, will your help desk facilitate phone calls using a technician’s home or mobile phone but hide their personal caller ID and instead display a main school phone number?
- Does your help desk facilitate remote viewing and control of a user’s device?
1 | IT staff and school district administration should define what success looks like for help desk operations.
2 | Once success is defined, determine what changes or new systems are necessary to accommodate an ERT or 1:1 scenario and meet your definition of success.