Right now there are two programs being run overseas. One in London/Prague and one in Italy. Each have their own unique support challenges. One team is led by a single faculty member – if the equipment fails she is at the mercy of technology support in the area she is located.
The other group has a number of faculty members and a set of six MacBook Pro computers, should one fail, there is a backup of equipment and a local technology support person (although expensive) to assure that problem areas are addressed.
One program was completely self supportive. Finding the equipment it needed and setting up tools on their own prior to departure. I did attend a single class session and helped students get started with blogging – but technology was not necessarily the focal point of this program. The little support I needed to offer was enough to allow them to be successful.
The other program requires a full computer lab simulation. I attended this program last year, which allowed me to know what types of support were available to them in the direct vicinity of the classroom. With this advanced knowledge I was able to pack up the equipment necessary to move the Wakerly lab from Marquette to a small lab in a village in Italy.
I spent most of the month of May collecting equipment and preparing it for shipping. I thought long and hard about the classroom – would the network be able to support the six laptops all streaming video for editing at a single time? Keeping in mind that the amount of packages being sent would increase the cost to the program I spent the next two weeks preparing two large cases with print cartridges, cables, networking equipment, camera’s, laptops, and of course a server. Add to this a monitor and a couple of external hard drives and you have an International version of the Wakerly lab. Just need to add students, instructors and poof! You have activity that the school can be proud of.
So which is the better technology support model? I honestly can’t tell you. In both cases students will experience ‘real world’ situations. They will see first hand how important it is to be flexible and able to meet difficult situations head on. Students will learn how important it is to have contingency plans and how my rants about technology being the enemy make much more sense – especially when so far from those that can provide help.
Now, my technology support training wants me to hop in the closest jet liner and go over to assist. Reality is that budgets, and family, make this almost impossible. So I support the best I can via email and online searches. I also have great belief in my faculty members and know they will do a fantastic job assisting the students.
My advice to you, If you are planning on going into the area of technical support, is to be prepared to be on call for your colleagues. Be ready to answer emails after work, on weekends, and yes, even when on vacation.
Get a good sense of where you can find wireless access – that may be the one thing that allows you to keep your sanity.
Know how long it will take to make it home from work so that you can sign on and make sure no further problems have popped up. Become familiar with google maps to point out technology support areas overseas.
But – by far the most important part of a technical support job in this type of situation is to be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes – if only for a little bit – to realize how stressful it is to be away from help.
That amount of empathy will allow you to be successful as a technical support staff member and help you build the type of skills that many will find invaluable.