In the modern higher education landscape, technology is embedded in every step of the academic journey. Long gone are the days when a scholar would show up to campus with a pen, pad of paper, and a stack of books. The vast majority of today’s students and faculty need a stable internet connection to complete their work, using laptops, tablets, smartphones, specialized apps and platforms, and more.

It’s inevitable that, at some point, these devices and programs will require troubleshooting from an experienced IT professional. And the quality of an institution’s IT help desk team can make or break its ability to meet the needs of students, faculty, and staff and ultimately fulfill its educational mission.

We enlisted Justin Denton, senior director of IT support services at Collegis Education, to help identify five key characteristics of high-performing IT help desks.

1. Highly trained and knowledgeable staff

It should come as no surprise that a skilled support team is number one on the list. IT professionals have to be expert problem solvers and resolve a wide range of issues, especially when working in higher education. That requires solid training up front, plus ongoing professional development.

IT support specialists are expected to:

  • Handle a high volume of calls, emails, and chats
  • Educate users on things like applications and e-learning systems
  • Troubleshoot hardware and software problems remotely
  • Understand the school’s processes, systems, and infrastructure

“With college students, you really have to know a little bit about everything,” Denton explains. He notes that student satisfaction trends upward when you provide users with an action item or potential solution, even if it’s just offering another place to inquire.

2. Effective ticket management and knowledge documentation

Consistent use of ticketing systems is the best way to keep track of support requests, prioritize workflow, assign tickets to staff, and ensure no issues fall through the cracks. Detailed documentation of common problems and solutions (often referred to as “knowledge articles”) are also important for both internal and external audiences.

“The ultimate goal is to provide the same high-quality experience no matter who you happen to get on the phone,” Denton explains. “You can’t do that without standardized processes, training and a comprehensive understanding of institutional knowledge.”

For internal support staff, having a procedure for addressing a specific issue like “How do I add my college email account to my iPhone?” helps them meet the needs of customers efficiently and accurately. As for customer-facing solutions, making self-help resources easily available and searchable online is a great way to empower students to solve their own issues when possible.

“It’s very common for a school to have only a few documented processes, if any at all.”

Throughout Denton’s 18-year career in higher education technology working with all different types of institutions, he has observed some trends. “It’s very common for a school to have only a few documented processes, if any at all,” he notes. “That’s where Collegis comes in to help partners gather all this intel, organize it, and deploy it onsite and through a virtual Personal Support Center.”

3. Scalable staffing models to handle busy periods

One of the most common yet predictable challenges that higher ed IT teams face is the high volume of support requests at the beginning and end of each academic term. There’s a huge influx of students trying to register for classes, log in to digital learning platforms, check their grades, submit finals, take tests, and much more.

Managers must take care to analyze and support request patterns and scale their staffing models accordingly for those weeks or months. It’s during these peak academic periods that students are the most stressed and requests are more likely to be made with a sense of urgency. High-performing help desks are capable of adapting to increased demand and making sure issues are handled promptly without sacrificing service quality.

4. Responsive remote assistance 24/7/365

According to the latest National Center for Education Statistics, exclusively online colleges and universities enroll nearly 2.8 million students, which makes up almost 15% of all U.S. postsecondary learners. And many more millions of students take at least one course online at public, private, and non-profit institutions around the country.

Students who are studying online don’t keep to a traditional schedule — they log in when they can, often late at night, on weekends, or early in the morning. They expect to have access to effective IT support at the moment they need it, not during someone else’s traditional office hours. Persistent, unresolved tech issues can severely hinder or even halt a student’s educational progress.

A virtual 24/7/365 help desk provides customer-centric support by recognizing the realities of students’ lives and prioritizing their needs accordingly. This investment in IT reflects a commitment to accessible education for all students, regardless of where they live.

5. Strategic data enablement and analysis

Finally, the best higher ed IT help desks are the ones that view data as a strategic and valuable asset. They engage in what we call “data enablement” or the process of collecting, connecting and activating data to inform strategic decisions and make a positive impact on student success. Some useful metrics include: support request volume, response times, issue resolution rates, and overall student satisfaction rates.

“All IT help desks should operate on a continuous improvement model,” Denton affirms. “You have to constantly adapt and update to meet the changing needs of the university and their students.”

“All IT help desks should operate on a continuous improvement model,” Denton affirms. “You have to constantly adapt and update to meet the changing needs of the university and their students.”

Time for a help desk upgrade?

It’s clear that a well-run help desk staffed with trained IT professionals should be an essential priority for any higher ed institution that is serious about supporting students, staff, and faculty. If your IT team is struggling to provide this caliber of consistent, high-quality service, it may be time to call in some reinforcements.

Find out how our team of experts at Collegis Education can help level up your IT help desk services and ensure your students are covered at all times. Contact us today to learn more!

Author: Collegis Education staff

Collegis is passionate about education and driven by the technology that keeps institutions moving forward.