Like virtually every other administrative unit in higher education, the Information Technology Division at Valdosta State University in Georgia employed students to supplement the efforts of full-time staff. They were deployed in about 50 classrooms and computer labs across campus, where they helped monitor the use of nearly 1,500 desktop computers.
Assessing staffing issues a year ago, administrators realized that expectations for those students were set by the individual departments each classroom and lab served.
“We had a workforce we were employing but were not leveraging in a consistent manner across the university,” says Joe Newton, director of infrastructure support services and chief technology officer. “We decided to try to put a program to that and expect more out of the student assistants. Rather than just leaving it to the distributed departments to figure out how to manage their lab, we wanted to support them better by organizing that effort.”
For two months, a committee developed a training program, which was then distributed via the university’s learning management system, powered by Desire2Learn. The training involved upkeep of classroom and lab appearance; implementation of effective preventative maintenance procedures; support for IT technicians working on-site; and tracking and reporting of issues the students were both able to and unable to resolve themselves.
Following the training, the university tested the results with pilot programs in its Odum Library and Langdale College of Business Administration. Evaluations done before, during, and after the training showed the library labs were doing better. Evaluation scores for the Langdale labs remained consistently high—a reflection that documented maintenance procedures were already in place there but not in Odum.
Valdosta has experienced a 256 percent increase in identified and corrected problems over six months as the best evidence of the training’s effectiveness.
“Just by measuring how many more reports we got was an indicator for us that we were stepping up the activity in those labs,” Newton says.
He adds that using centralized training to empower departmental staffs allowed for an obstacle-free implementation with plenty of positive results.
“One lesson learned is that a little bit of care and feeding of any program can be well received. Instead of taking the entire burden on in central IT, if we’re able to go to the departments and provide them with some support in terms of training and education and setting expectations—providing them a standard that everyone else is trying to meet—people are remarkably receptive,” Newton says. “They will share that burden and take some ownership of the overall program. Having faith in your people and providing them that support is something we might have underestimated in the past.”