This semester I have been doing an internship on the ITS helpdesk. Thanks to all of my workmates, I learned a lot while I was working there, you can’t learn things like communication skills through books / lectures, so thank you for giving me a chance to work on the helpdesk 😀
To be honest, at most of the time, we are repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again. Things like setting wireless / uninstalling Norton (with Norton Removal Tools) / installing iPrint / installing Sophos are some of the most common ones. Tasks like these are not very difficult at all, most of them just involved a very simple procedure of “clicking next next next…”. However, tasks like setting up wireless do require a few steps and it might not be so obvious to some of the students.
Right now the situation is like this, the students just come to our helpdesk no matter whenever they have any problems with their computer. My main goal is to help the students to setup wireless, sometimes its hard to help the students with wireless problems because I need to help others (whose got other laptop problems). Some students might have to wait for a long time just to get their laptop on the wireless network. So what can we do about it?
There have been a few solutions floating around this year; things like having a Hard Copy Handout, a CD/DVD containing some instructions and even Wireless Setup Manual (just a piece of paper) are available to help the students to get things done themselves, but a vast majority of students are still coming to see us for help instead of doing it themselves. (even though the self help material is just in front of us) I think there is a few reasons for this:
- Some students (usually those who doesn’t know much about their computer) doesn’t like reading lengthy computer manuals, they scared of “pressing the wrong button” / “mess things up on their computer” etc.
- If you are reading a manual and somehow can’t follow one of the steps, chances are you are not going to ask the people around you because you might feel that they will laugh @ you and tell you how easy its to do something while you are struggling to do so.
- A picture (or screen shot rather) is worth more than a thousand words, but some people just can’t see the picture after reading the words. (most of them are too scared of computers…)
- Having someone to do it for you is faster. (but used up a lot of our resources)
- I don’t have the WPA2 patch on my XP, are you asking me to download it from the Internet? If I can access the Internet, why would I be standing here!?!? (most of them forgot that they have an Ethernet port on their laptop… -_-)
- I am just lazy, can you please do it for me? I can’t be bothered 😀 (finally someone is telling the truth…)
- <insert more reasons here>
I have seen one of my workmates giving a student (the student was my friend) a copy of the Handbook and ask her to do the wireless setup herself. She was quite upset afterwards simply because it took her sometime to read the handbook and setup the wireless, she said its not fair that the guy on the helpdesk is helping others while she have to do it herself, which took quite a bit of time…
While I got no problem understanding the step by step manual that she have got, its hard to say that everyone is comfortable with a reading like this. Yes I know…we are University Students, we should be able to do such such such… but there are always those that are unwilling to do so…
Alright, so enough for the blah blah blah and lets get to the point here…what can we do to minimise the workload of our staff and let them focus on the “Hard Core” stuff (E.g. troubleshot laptops that can’t get on the wireless network after the students have tried it themselves) rather than doing the day to day simple tasks? Remember what I said before about “A picture (or screen shot rather) is worth more than a thousand words“? Instead of (maybe as well as) print hard copy handouts / manuals / tips sheets, we can make use of our computers around the campus to do the job for us. We can make some PowerPoint tutorials available; put them in a folder with the executables, and let the students view them whenever / wherever they want / need. Here is an example:
A student called David is new to the Uni. He has got a new laptop (running XP) and he wants to get on the wireless network so he can go online and tell his friends about his life down in Dunedin. If he had arrive this year, he will probably join one of the queues on the ground floor of the central library, and wait for a long time just to get his wireless setup.
But if we fast forward a bit and let David arrive @ Otago next year (2008), things might be a little bit different. When David arrived @ the central library, he reads the notice board and found that there are wireless setup tutorials on most of the computers around the campus, even the ones in the Halls of Residents around the Uni. Instead of waiting in the long queue, he decided to give it a go and try to do the setup himself. He sat down in front of the computer in the library, typed in his user name and password and press the Ok button to login. While the login is happening, there is a message box coming up reminding him that he will be expecting a folder called “Computer Tutorials” on the desktop that contains all kinds of answers to computer questions like how to setup wireless on your own laptop. After David had logged into the system, he open up the folder and found the one that he wants…”How to setup wireless on your own laptop“. In the folder, there are 3 PowerPoint Slides, one for each operating system (XP, Vista and Mac OS X), and one executable file (labeled: the WPA2 patch for XP). Since his laptop is using XP, he quickly opened up the PowerPoint and see what was inside. The PowerPoint mainly contains screen shots; its a step by step hands on guide with red rectangles circulating the buttons that you should press. With the help of the guide, David doesn’t really need to read any text / instructions off the screen because all he have to do was to identify which button to press on each slide. With the help of the guide, he got his laptop setup for wireless in a matter of minutes and was ready to go, so he click on the logout icon to logout, pack his bag and at the same time thinking what to do with his time that he’ve saved by doing the wireless setup himself 😀
This is just an imaginary scenario, the details are not important here, the most important thing is to make use of the computers around the campus (and the computers in the Halls of Residents) to help us to get some of the jobs done. Things like setting up software (E.g. Sophos, iPrint, Spybot…) can be done by most of the students if we have a screen shot by screen shot tutorial widely available on the computers around the campus. We can also save ourselves a bit of paper by keeping everything digital 😀
As a student / ITS staff, what do you think?
This is a rather lengthy post, so if you have made it to the end, well done, and thank you (in advance) for any feedbacks.