Introduction

Educational institutions earn and build reputation based on their ability to attract the best faculty, create high-quality educational courseware and foster a diverse and highly intellectual pool of students. Providing a world-class teaching method, state-of-the-art technological infrastructure, hassle-free campus experience, onboarding experience and placements are some of the pillars that factor into the decision-making process of students and faculty in choosing the right institution.

Higher education is undergoing a paradigm shift with the advent of innovations like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), Communication tools, Collaboration tools, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), VR Classrooms etc. Leveraging Information Technology plays a pivotal role for Institutions to modernize their services and provide students and faculty with a connected campus and enriched learning experience. With today's hyper connected, always-on, personalized experiences making inroads into all forms of online interactions, IT Service Management plays a pivotal role in improving the campus experience for all stakeholders.

Problem statement

The current problems faced by higher education institutions that are hindrances to an effective service support and delivery are:

Drivers of ITSM in academic transformation

IT plays a huge role in transforming the way the education ecosystem works and drives academic transformations. Let us discuss the primary drivers of ITSM across the higher education industry.

Emerging Technologies

The education support system is seeing a steady increase in application of cutting edge technologies in areas of Learning Management Systems (LMS) and collaboration technologies, helping geographically scattered students to connect with Professors and peers. Trends such as adaptive learning, personalized learning and virtual reality will potentially improve students' classroom experience. Classroom & collaboration apps will provide newer definitions to teaching. Social learning is a new cognitive concept that includes learning from each other through observation and modelling. Instant messaging apps such as Slack are popularly used across campuses to foster open communication and effective knowledge sharing in the IT community.

Gartner predicts Global Higher Education Sector Technology Spending to Exceed US$38.2 Billion in 2016.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) & BYOD

Online courses and distance education have resulted in the usage of multiple custom applications by students and faculty. Availability of MOOCs help students to access courses anywhere and from any device. This is an effect of BYOD and consumerization. Students and faculty use personal devices in university campus thus putting pressure on IT department to provide seamless service and ensure security.

In a nutshell, it means that interactive technologies, from smartphones to websites to mobile apps to Saas apps, need to provide the most usable, self-guided, hiccup-free, efficient user experiences in history - Wired.

Student self-service expectation

Students who are the end users expect self-service technology to resolve issues and want to access relevant resources by themselves. They also use technologies like 3D printing, on line LMS, virtual reality and so on. Self-service expectation drives the need for a fully-fledged ITSM strategy. Sometimes, student workers work part time as service desk agents in universities. Therefore, both agent and end user experience of service desk have to be seamless and intuitive in order to match their expectations.

Student IT leadership

Students getting employed in university departments as part time service desk agents improves the association between administration and student group. Training is an important component here which helps students to get familiar with ITSM and receive hands-on experience about processes followed. Therefore, there is a need to deliver a great user experience and build a holistic training academy.

Challenges faced by higher ed.

According to the National Center for Educational Studies (NCES), approximately 2.9 million students graduate in a year from all educational institutes in the USA. This includes undergraduates and postgraduates. The scale of stakeholders also increases multi-fold with the 1.54 million teaching professionals (statistics from Bureau of Labor Statistics) that are part of the education sector. Every University or educational institution in its entirety can be viewed as an enterprise by the sheer scale of operations. Due to this large scale, challenges faced by university departments also increase proportionately.

Fragmented data

Data is distributed in campuses between central IT and siloed departments. Central IT is responsible for procurement, implementation of new applications and resource allocation whereas department service desks resolve issues raised by their department students and fulfill their service requests on time. Due to this setup, data is fragmented and lacks consistency across the system. Also, there are multiple service desk tools that are implemented in an ad hoc manner. Decision-making gets tougher because of the fragmented data.

Tighter Budget

Educational institutions face resource constraints in terms of IT spending, staff recruitment and procurement of a good service desk tool. The increase in competition and growing demands from staff and students pose major challenges to IT. It is quite challenging for an IT team to convince the management of the benefits of technology adoption and how it improves efficiency. Demand and supply mismatch exists in most institutions as students increase year by year whereas support staff remain the same.

Diverse customers & seasonal volume

End users of IT in education include students, staff, alumni, faculty and support agents include administrative staff, central IT staff and department support staff. Therefore, it is difficult to understand every user persona and meet individual expectations. Also, there is a seasonal demand which is high especially during admission and graduation times. Service desk ticket volume is usually high and it is challenging to handle seasonal peak with the available resource.

Information security 

This includes protecting resources such as student data, research materials and academic content. BYOD and consumerization increase the threat of security breach and information loss. It is necessary to have a proper Information security policy and asset management policy in place to be more proactive. Having a cloud based solution increases the necessity of proper information security.s

Solution

What could we do now to step up and accelerate current processes in the higher education industry? We have analysed various schools and universities' IT practices and proposed solutions below for an effective ITSM strategy and improved user experience. 

Hybrid IT strategy

Having a central IT team helps educational institutions to consolidate the fragmented data. This would become a single source of truth to analyse performance, ROI and accelerate the decision-making process. Centralized IT strategy allows a single service desk tool to be implemented eliminating the overhead of managing multiple tools. It also helps in easier knowledge sharing and clearer ownership but IT governance gets difficult and needs to be handled carefully. Department level and school level distributed teams cannot be ignored as local IT teams fulfill service requests and resolve issues raised by students. The overarching IT strategy includes 

Balancing centralized IT with local support teams is the key to success.

identify the roles and responsibilities and communicate them clearly to the stakeholders. It is vital to create a university wide service management that is extended to departments beyond IT such as administration, faculty, hostel, research, admission office etc.

Hybrid IT

Create a swarm including members of central IT and department support teams. Follow an effective collaboration strategy to form a hybrid IT team to handle business critical issues that demand collaboration between central and local IT. Local teams could be the first point of contact but issues need to be managed centrally in a single tool and central team that can collaborate with local teams to troubleshoot L2 and L3 issues. Distinguishing the roles of central and department IT teams will help to provide better context.

  Central IT     Department IT     Hybrid approach  
  Define processes     Fulfill ad Hoc requests     Better tracking & accountability  
  Classify and assign tickets to the right group     SLA commitment & Incident resolution     Better collaboration & faster resolution  
  IT resource planning
   
  Student workers as agents     Better resource utilization  
  IT asset audit & compliance     Asset tracking     Better ROI  
  Technology adoption     Smooth operations     Better end user experience  
Proposed Steps
Advantages of hybrid IT model
Campus wide Service management

ITSM bridges the gap between university IT and non IT departments by extending IT Service Management practices across campus. Students reach out to their respective departments for immediate resolution or walk into the IT help desk kiosk. The Administration office, admissions, examination controller, faculty, hostel, alumni, research and paid services handle a number of queries and requests on a daily ad hoc basis. Central IT and these departments work in silos as discussed above and there is no standard operating procedure across these departments. 

Service catalog leverage

Educational institutions handle different kinds of service requests that come from students, faculty, alumni and sometimes parents. Hosting a single catalog to consolidate all these requests enable self-service and this acts as a single source of truth. Certain requests would require approval workflow and service catalog management helps in automation and improving end user experience. Some of the common services include the following

  • Student on boarding
  • Data management services
  • Computers & software
  • Academic services
  • Teaching & learning services
  • Email & calendar
  • Hostel services
  • Research computing
  • Field support services
  • Alumni affairs
  • Accounts & Authentication services
  • Information security services

Tips to create a service catalog

  • Create an intuitive personalized catalog experience for students that include all department
  • requests - add relevant images, themes, logos.
  • Capture all relevant details using the custom service request form
  • Automate the service request fulfillment process
  • Make it available in mobile app for easier access
Helpdesk Kiosk

Walk in requests cannot always be ignored in universities. Having a help desk kiosk helps students and faculty to raise walk in requests easily. This will be of great help in achieving faster resolution and enables one to one communication between staff and students. Tickets reported through the kiosk can be automated using a barcode scanner etc. Once self-service portal adoption is increased, you could eliminate the kiosk completely.

Automate

Implementing the right service desk solution helps in automation of university specific workflows that are mostly redundant such as student onboarding, service request approval etc. Asset tracking and auditing is a crucial task for IT team as students use various types of devices and gadgets. In order to efficiently track hardware and software inventory, use auto-discovery mechanisms that are available as a part of service desk solution.

Automate common processes

University IT offers a variety of services but IT staff resources are limited. Therefore, it is essential to automate mun dane processes and provide faster resolution. IT Service desk helps in configuring these workflows and common processes include account access, student on boarding, application access request, password reset services, training services, hardware request etc.

Auto-discovery of Inventory

Automate discovery of IT assets using discovery tools available within service desk to capture details such as asset owner, configuration details, software installed, components, serial number etc. Automate alerts and notifications for warranty, license expiry and approval process. Information security and compliance management are crucial during the asset audit process. Mobile device Management(MDM) is implemented to ensure security and data is protected even if the device is lost or stolen.iscd

Asset loaning

Students loan assets on a temporary basis and an asset management solution should have a provision to include a loan schedule, reminder alerts for return and asset details. For instance, if a student is attending a conference event and needs an iPad just for that duration, it doesn't need to be permanently assigned to them. Once the item is returned to the IT team, it can be made available in the service catalog again and can be reused by another student. Availability of loaner items and reminders should be automated.

Move to cloud 

Businesses are migrating towards cloud and laaS (Infrastructure as a Service) is the key trend in implementing an ITAM solution which is critical to digital transformation. Implementing a cloud solution minimizes cost for setup, maintenance and also improves compliance.

According to Gartner's prediction, "By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human."

Checklist for Implementing ITSM in educational institutions 

According to the National Center for Educational Studies (NCES), approximately 2.9 million students graduate in a year from all educational institutes in the USA. This includes undergraduates and postgraduates. The scale of stakeholders also increases multi-fold with the 1.54 million teaching professionals (statistics from Bureau of Labor Statistics) that are part of the education sector. Every University or educational institution in its entirety can be viewed as an enterprise by the sheer scale of operations. Due to this large scale, challenges faced by university departments also increase proportionately.

  • Create a project transition plan
  • Self service awareness for all
  • Build an IT community
  • Integrate your service desk with student apps
  • Go Mobile

Create a project transition plan

When you kickstart an IT Service management program in your university, it is important to understand the IT mission and vision. ITSM is powered by implementing an effective service desk tool and therefore, create a project transition plan to replace your existing solution with a new service desk tool. Change management is crucial for smooth transition and to avoid downtime.

Self service awareness for all

Consolidate services provided by various departments and host them in a unified catalog that can be request­ed by students/faculty/alumni. Having a self-service portal to enable this would empower end users to identify the right service item and self-help themselves. Student self-service experience includes service catalog, FAQ access, submitting queries, checking for internal announcements etc.

Tips

Gamify your self-service portal to improve end user adoption. For example,

Build an IT community

A University IT community fosters collaboration and engagement across all user groups. Communities include IT academy, research, CIO community, Training community etc. IT community results in innovation through collaboration. Examples include agile, ITIL, Devops and QA communities where experts come together to create internal initiatives and professional development programmes.

Integrate your service desk with student apps

Students use messenger apps like Slack for any internal communication. Therefore, integrate your service desk with student apps to drive adoption and easy accessibility. Marketing your service desk is an important activity to create awareness. It should be available within the student portal, internal websites and wherever easily accessible.

Go Mobile

Millennials are power users of smartphones. A service desk mobile app is a game changer in education with hands on functionalities and enables agents to resolve tickets on the move. This is especially helpful for the field services team which needs to report issues on the go and update statuses. Students also find mobile apps more handy in terms of checking alerts, timetable changes and library updates etc.

The Freshservice Advantage

According to the National Center for Educational Studies (NCES), approximately 2.9 million students graduate in a year from all educational institutes in the USA. This includes undergraduates and postgraduates. The scale of stakeholders also increases multi-fold with the 1.54 million teaching professionals (statistics from Bureau of Labor Statistics) that are part of the education sector. Every University or educational institution in its entirety can be viewed as an enterprise by the sheer scale of operations. Due to this large scale, challenges faced by university departments also increase proportionately. 

Case study - Judson university 

Judson University, is an evangelical Christian liberal arts university located in Elgin, Illinois, United States. It was founded in 1963. The university has campuses in Elgin and Rockford, Illinois, and a student body of approximately 1,300. Judson University has more than 60 undergraduate majors, minors, and pre-professional programs and is currently the only evangelical Christian college or university to over a fully accredited graduate program in architecture

“Freshservice enables a 'work smarter, not harder' mentality and promotes a culture of efficiency. These automations allowed our IT team's members to move into more specialized roles where they can have a bigger impact as individuals.”

  KPI     PRE-FRESHSERVICE     WITH-FRESHSERVICE  
  First call resolution     20%     70%  
  Meeting SLAs     Not measured     90%  
  Customer Satisfaction     Not measured     92%  
  Managed changes     40%     100%  
  Serious change related incidents     26     2  
  Tickets raised via email     50%     33%  

Intuitive user experience

Freshservice's modern and intuitive UI requires minimal or no training, and is customizable to IT and non-IT needs. With mobile capability, students and administration can have all this done through a single click on their mobile.

Increase adoption of IT system in your schools

The Service Catalog feature helps improve the campus experience as it facilitates students, faculty, and staff to easily and transparently access services through a shopping cart model. Service Catalog has approval and automation capabilities to accelerate service delivery

Intelligent automation

Freshservice automates ticket distribution, event and time based actions, asset discovery and repetitive tasks in the background, allowing crucial resources to focus on more mission critical tasks.

Pay what you want 

Freshservice offers subscription plans that starts with a free 21-day trial period. There are no hidden costs, no support fees, and you only pay for the features you use. There is 24 X 7 email and 24 X s call support with every plan.

Empower your students and faculties to resolve issues 

Self-service skips the trouble of bringing another person into the mix and empowers users to quickly find what they need and execute on a solution all on their own. The Knowledge Base is a repository of information for students, faculties, staff and admin. Through this portal admins can share, solution articles for IT issues and self-help, academic curriculum requirements, and governing policies. 

Proven Implementation Methodology

The ease of transitioning and migrating to Freshservice is one of its USPs. Our personalized on boarding team follows a consultative solution approach and this is followed throughout the lifecycle of the customer.

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