Consideration for Comprehensive Tech Support

From the Field

Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) Client Services Division of IT Services

With a staff of 11, servicing approximately 20,000 computers and other tech devices, the Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) Client Services Division of IT Services (ITCS) has worked since the summer of 2013 to streamline the operations and processes that support teachers and students. The team began by aligning their work to the goals of the district’s technology plan, which are to help OKCPS students prepare for college and careers.  A major shift was to provide a higher quality service by allocating service requests into manageable chunks, rather than the prior system of placing all tickets in two queues (elementary and secondary schools). In addition, the district increased remote services and technicians now schedule school visits on a standard rotation, which, establishes clearer user expectations and allows technicians to plan their work. Furthermore, the ITCS started measuring timeliness and quality satisfaction via a survey tool as each support request is closed. The reconfiguration of central components (workflow and priorities) has permitted ITCS to close nearly 11,000 service requests, with a quality satisfaction of four out of five. The team has a 2014-2015 goal of 94% quality satisfaction and 2015-2016 goal of 97% quality satisfaction.

Successful districts have found it valuable to think broadly about the best overall approach to meet support needs comprehensively before establishing specific details that define what support will be provided to whom and by whom. While no two districts provide exactly the same combination of tech support products and services to their users, all have defined core elements comprising “tech support” that contribute to successfully meeting their local needs. The following questions have helped districts define, plan for, and implement the core components of tech support:

  • Who are the customers? Are they students as well as teachers and administrators? Are they parents helping their students with homework?
  • What goals been established for the tech support?
  • Have tech support priorities been defined and publicized for all users?
  • What will our tech support include and exclude?
    • Does it include all devices used in the district, including student-owned devices, or only devices owned by the district?
    • Does it include all software owned or licensed by the district?
    • Does it include the wireless infrastructure as well as the broadband connection into the district?
  • Will the district support devices off-campus, and if so, how?
  • How will requests be initiated and what is the process for prioritizing?
  • Has routine tech support been established through maintenance schedules?
  • What will be the business hours of tech support, and the policies for nights/weekends/summer?
  • Who are the responsible parties for each aspect of support? Are different staff (or companies) responsible for devices versus broadband? How has this been communicated to the users?
  • Is there sufficient demand to have a designated support person on each campus? What other ways might the tech support staff be deployed?
  • What metrics and indicators for tech support success will the district use to help determine cost effectiveness and customer satisfaction with current and future setups?

Request for Proposals (RFP)

When releasing an RFP for devices, districts should consider including service requirements related to tech support. Including service requirements in RFPs can help reduce costs and ensure that the winning vendor provides system-wide, high quality tech support. This concept may be included in district, consortia or state level device RFPs. This model ensures a relationship with the vendor and a coordinated repair process. As an example, the State of Maine Department of Education’s Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), multistate RFP #201210412 includes requirements for tech support services. The following link includes access to the RFP and the winning contracts with details about tech support services.


Coordinated Services: Tech support, tech training and professional learning

While instructional and technical support staff are each important separately, together they can be much more powerful when efforts are thoughtfully synchronized. Whereas the instructional staff typically contributes knowledge of pedagogy, students and content to the team, tech support staff offers familiarity with the capacity of devices and software and not necessarily the learning experiences. As a result, there is great potential for a close symbiotic relationship between tech support training and professional learning opportunities.

Translating this potential into actual synchronicity involves thinking through the types of user needs that are present in the district, as well as those that may be forecast under future scenarios. For example, districts may discover that some of the best forms of tech support are professional learning opportunities involving teachers testing and using technologies for instruction, and then working with each other to troubleshoot problems during curriculum and pedagogy sessions with participation from the tech support staff. The more users gain experience with devices, software and services, the less likely they are going to need support with classroom use or for administrative purposes over time. Similarly, the more the IT staff understands about the content, curriculum and classroom activities, the better they will be able to support the teachers and administrators.

As devices and software become more intuitive, the tech support staff may be able to provide online support through video, interactive user groups and chats. This would shift toward a relatively greater emphasis on tech support and reduced emphasis on professional learning for devices and software.

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