ITSM The New Different

An IT Pro’s Declassified School Success Guide

August 5, 2020

An IT Pro’s Declassified School Success Guide

Class is almost in session, and this year will look very different than it did in years past. Depending on the state and district, school officials have decided to continue virtual learning or put safety plans in place for in-person learning. In any case, technology will be the backbone for successful learning in 2020. Schools’ IT departments will be integral in ensuring students and teachers have reliable devices and easy access to software applications to start and finish the year strong.

Challenges to prepare for

Asset inventory, including laptops, hotspots, and tablets, may be one of the biggest challenges schools face this year. Between not having enough, fixing the broken, and locating missing devices – tracking inventory for thousands of students is a beast. Having the budget to support inventory is uncertain, especially during this pandemic, and school officials may not know how much they can allocate to technology needs.

Once students and teachers have technology in hand, what kind of software will be needed to keep things running? Will cloud-based applications be the norm? If not, how will they connect to the network? These are a few questions top of mind for the 2020-2021 school year.

According to a recent NPR article, 41% of teenagers overall, including 47% of public school students, say they haven’t attended a single online or virtual class. Reasons include resource gaps, living in areas without or with poor internet connection, and—unfortunately—apathy. Thankfully, the service desk can help teachers and students bridge these gaps.

Service desk to the rescue

Government, health, and financial organizations were able to use the service desk to their benefit when the pandemic first began and with school starting soon, educational institutions can do the same. There are infinite capabilities in a service desk solution, and key features like ticketing, knowledge base (KB), and IT asset management can set the school year up for success.

Having a functional ticketing system that’s available anytime and anywhere from any device is important to consider since not every teacher and student work on the same schedule. There may be late nights when teachers need to grade assignments and early mornings when students need to put the finishing touches on assignments. If they need immediate assistance, can they get in touch with a technology specialist outside of business hours?

Creating and updating the knowledge base with how-to guides is helpful to get users comfortable with using the service desk. Working with new technology on top of adjusting to a new classroom format can be time-consuming and stressful, so step-by-step guides demonstrating how to connect to the VPN, reset passwords, and upload files will be valuable. Also consider the various ways users learn; while some retain information better by reading guides, others may benefit from watching videos or looking at screenshots of what they’re looking for. Other useful items to add to the KB include FAQs, a glossary, or list of definitions. Once school begins, keep track of the most submitted questions or requests and create articles surrounding those topics.

From the IT pro’s perspective, an IT asset management strategy will be vital in keeping up with school-issued equipment. Before devices are sent home with students and teachers, the IT department should double check the number of devices they plan to distribute, and ensure there is a scalable method in place to track their location once they’re released. Additionally, IT asset management helps track the lifespan of individual devices and software packages, which can aid when performing incident, problem, risk, and change management. Remember that budget mentioned earlier? With many schools not having much money for new devices, they can consider refurbishing inactive ones or even relocating them from one department to another. A service desk with built in asset management capabilities can help to cut out unnecessary expenses.

Top 3 preparations before school doors open

So, let’s review class. We’ve mentioned some challenges that schools and their IT departments may run into, we know some ways the service desk can address those challenges, but now what are the top three preparations schools can start doing now?

  1. If there’s funding for it, staff up – a common theme in many schools is having to do more with less, from equipment to employees, and especially in IT departments. Consider bringing in talent with a diverse set of skills who understand technology and the unique needs of schools.
  2. Take accurate inventory – you’ll thank yourself at the end of the school year for double and triple counting the number of devices on hand at the beginning of the year.
  3. Get familiar with and promote the service desk – it’s nearly impossible to promote something you’re not familiar with using. Take time to learn the ins and outs of the service desk, and how it can benefit your end users (faculty, staff, and students). Once you have a good understanding of the service desk, promote the service portal to users so they have one place to go to submit requests and find knowledge articles for self-help.

Jason Yeary is a technical expert for SolarWinds Service Desk customers and a former service desk manager in the healthcare industry. He is ITIL 4 certified and specializes in ITSM best practices, configuration, and integrations. He also has a refined palate for craft beer and knows professional football news before it's on your TV.