A new year (and semester) is upon us

Spring semester can be a time to reflect upon 'the good, the bad, and the ugly' of the semester just ended. Most students have at least a semester on campus under their belt and University IT has the opportunity to evaluate what went right and tweak what went wrong.
Written by Marc Wagner, Contributor

Well, if you work in University IT, your students are back in town and classes are about to start. 

More likely than not, faculty are starting to panic because the application they requested on 22 December is still not deployed to hundreds of workstations which their students will be using for class in the next few days. 

Never mind that they were gone for two weeks and unavailable to answer your questions regarding their needs.  Never mind that they were weeks late in making that request in the first place, or that you too had family obligations during the holidays and were in need of a much deserved break. 

It's no different with your student constituents.  They are just now inundating you with questions which, had they been asked before classes ended in December, could have been resolved quickly and easily before the Fall semester ended.  Now that the Fall semester has ended and the Spring semester is about to begin, students are demanding that you go back and 'fix' things that are now much less straightforward to address. 

Then there are those pesky questions which seem to get asked over and over again. 

Never mind that your department maintains an extensive knowledge base of information which students seem to forget exists from semester to semester.  Never mind that each semester your department publishes article after article in official school communications, which students never seem to have the time to read. 

It's almost as if your students purge their young minds of anything useful and productive as soon as the semester ends and then leave it up to you to restore that information in those last few days before classes resume.  Well tough!  If you work in University IT, that is your lot in life so you'd better get used to it! 

On a more positive note, Spring semester provides the University IT staff their first opportunity to reflect upon those policies and services which were implemented for the first time just last August or September.   Unlike most enterprises, which rely on annual cycles for evaluating the effectiveness of their offerings, universities can learn a great deal over the course of a single Fall semester.  Spring offers the opportunity to tweak those services and hopefully improve the student computing experience on your campus. 

By the end of Spring semester, you will be in a position to make sound recommendations for the upcoming academic year based upon two complete cycles of data about your new offerings, and, because most undergraduate students attend school for only two semesters during each academic year, Summer will offer you an extended period to plan for the next academic year.  (Unlike faculty, who frequently take Summers off, those of us in University IT usually spend our Summers preparing new service offerings for the upcoming academic year. 

University IT is anything but static and any well-informed university administration knows that and is prepared to give their IT department the resources they need to meet the expectations of their constituent faculty and students.  So how does a university administration become well-informed?  This responsibiltiy belongs squarely in the hands of University IT.  The University IT department which fails to evaluate its failures as well as its successes not only does a disservice to itself but also lets down its constituent faculty and, most importantly, its students.

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