Aug 13 2013

College Students Are More Tech-Savvy Than We Thought

As BYOD gains momentum, the role of the help desk is changing.

Stephen diFilipo, CIO at Cecil College, spent months researching BYOD for the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research report, "The Consumerization of Technology and the Bring-Your-Own-Everything (BYOE) Era of Higher Education." He and co-author Eden Dahlstrom gathered a wealth of data, but one point in particular stood out: Most of the IT leaders surveyed expressed a desire to support the personal devices used on their campuses.

"That caught me off guard," diFilipo says, citing the countless smartphones, tablets and notebooks it would entail. "That's a huge cost. I can't imagine trying to support all that."

Many colleges and universities don't try. It hasn't even been an issue at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (RCCC) in North Carolina because students there typically bring devices that they know how to operate and maintain.

"They're not going to bring in devices that they don't understand how to use," says Mary Wymbs, RCCC's director of network infrastructure

Instead of supporting hardware, RCCC's IT team has focused on how to support access to ensure users can connect wirelessly and log on to the network. That was a big challenge because of RCCC's security, Wymbs says. Her team had to create training documentation for dozens of operating systems, and when they first made BYOD a requirement in RCCC's nursing program, they had to sit with some users to walk them through issues.

"We'd have to figure it out on the fly with them," Wymbs says. "Once we got over the hump, students began to train each other before they would call the help desk."

As BYOD becomes the norm across campuses, it's likely help desks will see their missions shift away from solving user problems, instead pointing users to self-serve resources such as tutorials, according to diFilipo's ECAR report.

RCCC CIO Jeremy Campbell couldn't agree more. "We're finding that our user population is much more savvy than they were given credit for," he says.

Read more about higher education CIOs and BYOD here.