Remote Support System Helps Students and Faculty

By Peter Jurhs

Founded in 1932, Boise State University has more than 22,000 undergraduate and graduate students. We aim to provide the best learning experience possible and prepare our students for success.

For the help desk, this means ensuring that students, faculty and staff have access to the tools and technologies they need. In addition, we must stay on top of these needs as technology changes.

The world increasingly relies on mobile technologies, and academia is no exception. Faculty members want to be able to check email from their smartphones; administrators want to access university systems when working remotely; and students expect to bring their laptop or tablet into the classroom.

To address all these areas and continue Boise State’s “students first” commitment, we had to reengineer our help desk to better support today’s academic environment.

In 2002, Boise State implemented a remote support solution to provide hands-on support at the point of contact for the managed PCs on our network. The technology had several limitations, including complexity for the support personnel, and it was solely for the Windows platform. Since approximately 30 percent of our students rely on Mac devices, that was a significant drawback.

Another problem with the legacy support tool was that it didn’t let us help individuals who were working off campus. That prevented us from fully serving our distance learning students and faculty when they traveled to conferences or conducted research in the field. Realizing that the system was no longer meeting out needs, we began looking for a remote support solution that could provide multiplatform support.

After investigating the marketplace, we ultimately selected Bomgar technology, which enables us to efficiently support diverse operating systems, while also meeting our security needs. Because it’s an appliance-based solution, all session activity and other details remain on-site and within our control.

As an added benefit, the technology doesn’t require any software to be installed on the users’ devices. This has been particularly well-received by our faculty, who are reluctant to let IT add any management applications to their machines.

We’ve seen a number of improvements since implementing this system. Instead of being able to support only specific university-sanctioned applications and devices, we can now assist any user, regardless of the device or operating system he or she uses. In addition to meeting our bring-your-own-device support needs, the solution allows us to assist faculty, students and staff even when they’re not connected to the university’s network.

The chief benefit of the technology, however, is how it has enabled us to provide real-time, proactive support. Today’s tech-savvy students have new expectations for speed of service, and they prefer to be helped through emerging channels such as chat. With that in mind, we recently launched a new student Web page, providing a centralized portal for class registration, grades, receiving assignments, email and other such activities.

Drawing on Bomgar’s chat capabilities, we were able to embed a chat link on the page, enabling users to immediately connect with the support team if they encounter issues with the system. This instantaneous access has been tremendously helpful as users navigate and grow familiar with the system. The embedded chat capabilities also have enabled us to address technology issues as they arise in the portal, rather than waiting to be alerted by a user after the fact.

Our enhanced support environment has significantly improved our experience as help desk representatives. Not only has it eliminated our frustration in being unable to help users because of device limitations, it also has made us much more efficient. With the screen-sharing technology, numerous reps can collaborate on the spot to solve a complex issue quickly—efficiently resolving the problem and freeing up resources to help other users.

Even if academic IT challenges grow more complex with each new matriculating class, I’m confident that our enhanced support capabilities will help us meet these issues head-on. By delivering real-time, device-agnostic support, our staff and technology now let the university’s users focus on the most important things—providing and working toward an education.

Peter Jurhs is the desktop support manager in the Office of Information Technology at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho.