Why Self-Service Portals are EdTech’s Next Big Thing

College IT departments look to self-service, enterprise management software to keep students connected

Today’s college students show up connected. The average college student brings 5 devices to campus. With 21 million total college students in the U.S., that’s 105 million devices that need internet access on our college campuses alone.

While the added layer of connection is beneficial to everything from communicating with friends to completing tough assignments on time, it takes its toll on technical support services offered by colleges. Information Technology, or IT, departments feel that weight, especially when it comes to campus-provided devices.

The proliferation of devices, and lack of manpower to handle all the maintenance and technical issues that arise, has led to some innovation in the way of self-service portals. The knowledge-based centers connect students, staff and administration when it comes to fixing technical problems, often without the need for IT interaction. When implemented correctly, these self-service portals save a lot of time and frustration for internet users with quick answers and feedback options.

It’s a money saver for colleges too. The average cost of a level 1 tech support call to the paying entity (in this case, we’re talking about colleges) is $22. Self-service portals reduce that cost to just $2 per interaction. (Check out this EdTech infographic for more stats)

Not all questions or requests can be handled without a professional, though. TeamDynamix — a software-as-a-service (SaaS) work management platform created solely for higher education platforms — essentially offers Enterprise Service Management which means it is used by IT, facilities, HR, marketing, residential life, media services and more. The portal connects students with actual people through a workflow — a service that recently tripled the number of departments using it in a year’s time.

At the core, a self-service portal is a knowledge-base with articles supplied by both IT and the user community. By using a crowdsourced approach, iterative feedback and suggestions can easily be shared. A user may rate the article, leave feedback or even contribute content. All of this is reviewed by the IT department and then published. You’ve probably visited an online forum before to find the answer to a fix-it question — whether you are repairing your dryer or smartphone. You might visit 4 or 5 forums until you find a problem similar to yours, though, and it may take even longer to find solutions.

Colleges are looking to companies like TeamDynamix to build self-service platforms that integrate all departments and services that are specific to the college. So the same portal is used for residential life that is used by media services and more. This greatly expands the knowledge base — allowing different departments to connect with each other and help answer each other’s questions.

In addition, if a service request is entered, the workflow can initiate across multiple departments.  For instance, a request for access to the broadcasting studio may be routed to security then to facilities then back to the requester.  By having one portal the school can easily manage requests from a centralized location.

The TeamDynamix portal has about 4 million higher education students serviced by its platform. Across 12 months, the TeamDynamix service portal doubled in terms of traffic, indicating that students are receptive to this type of self-service module. TeamDynamix reports that a key part of the growth is the trend towards knowledge centered support where contributions to the knowledge base are iterative and encompass feedback.

Moving Up in Tech Maturity

As technological advancements continue to snowball, it’s important that college campuses stay ahead of the curve. Technological maturity is not just something flashy to show potential students — it’s a necessity to prepare the next generation of college students for the workforce. Self-service portals are just one way colleges can support the need for tech help and encourage the people who use it to advance their own knowledge of their devices and their capabilities. More specifically, self-service tech portals increase tech maturity on campuses by offering:

  • Remote access for better accessibility to users
  • Knowledge-centered service, which offers feedback and engagement between users. By offering a portal that includes a knowledge base, schools can provide the student body with the opportunity to contribute content and leave feedback.  This “collective wisdom” bolsters the relevance and effectiveness of the information provided thereby driving increased self-service adoption.
  • One location for management of tech issues. When a tech issue goes beyond self-service resolutions, colleges should use a centralized tech support platform that tracks project management and resolution.

College students don’t want to wait for tech answers, and they definitely don’t want to be unable to use their devices. Self-service portals offer a way for them to stay connected while saving colleges and universities manpower and money.

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