Aug 04 2014

Student Perspective: Why IT Is Critical

IT has to serve as the invisible backbone of an increasingly connected industry.

I’ve come to expect certain things from my university.

I expect my professors to return graded material in a timely manner and to offer constructive feedback, and I expect the librarian staff to keep everything up to date and offer assistance when I’m conducting my research. However, my expectations, and the expectations of my peers, are highest for the university’s IT department. It’s not necessarily the norm to have such high expectations for this department, because, generally speaking, the better the IT is, the less you know they exist.

But IT plays a pivotal role on college campuses. I would venture to say that nine times out of 10, if I’m doing something on campus, technology is involved in some way. Whether I’m checking email or grades on my phone, doing research from my notebook in the quad or sitting in the residence hall streaming Netflix, the only time I’m not connected is when I’m sleeping.

My school’s IT department needs to be the caped crusader that ensures my ability to receive a top-notch education. Beyond the basics, it can be difficult to understand the exact role IT needs to play on a college campus, because there are so many students with a wide variety of needs and wishes.

So here are three things that I, and many of my peers, expect from our school’s IT:

Mobile Support

Whether I have some downtime between classes, I’m waiting for the bus or I just don’t feel like being cooped up in my room, I don’t always have access to my notebook. The ability to check email, grades and my university’s website from my phone is absolutely crucial to being able to get the information I need, wherever I might be. For example, my university’s website acts as a portal to applications, such as Blackboard and Outlook, that are used by many schools across the country. It’s crucial that I have access to these services — at any time — so that I am able to view grades, deadlines, contact information and my class schedule.

Services as Well as Solutions

It’s undoubtedly important that IT spend the vast majority of their resources on providing unique solutions for the university, such as boosting network speed and implementing Unified Communications, but it is equally important that IT provide services for their students as well.

This is one area where I can truly say my school exceeds all of my expectations. To start, the institution offers to fix any broken devices (still under warranty) for free. If my device becomes infected by a form of malware, or if something isn’t working as intended, I can take it to the IT department, and they will fix it with no questions asked. The institution understands the importance of having a connected campus, and if my device isn’t working as intended, my ability to obtain a quality education is hindered.

Education of Staff

One of the most frustrating experiences a college student can go through is having a professor who is technologically incapable. Everything my school uses to broadcast information is through applications and the Internet.

For example, the only way I can access and view my grades is through Blackboard, an online portal that acts as a personal hub of academic information. In order to access my grades and electronically submitted assignments, my professor must upload everything into Blackboard. If the professor doesn’t understand how to do this, then I could possibly go through the entire semester completely blind to my grades.

It is important, then, that IT personnel train new faculty and staff on how to use these applications. Not only would the students benefit from this, but also the faculty would understand how these programs allow them to be much more efficient in day-to-day processes.

Universities are quickly realizing just how important an asset technology is on their campuses. With IT resources spread thin, it can be difficult to keep up with the trends some schools are beginning to follow.

However, it is critical that technological devices be used to their fullest potential, and IT departments need to look for ways to accomplish this. Because, above all, I depend on my university’s IT department more than any other department on campus.


This article is the first in the Campus Connect: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #CampusConnect hashtag.