Community colleges see IT issues similar to larger universities
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Just like large public and private universities, community colleges also deal with account and password management issues. They might be on a smaller scale, but these problems interfere with productivity and efficiency just as much as those faced by "larger" entities.
In community colleges (as in other educational institutions), there is often frequent movement of students — from the time they enter the school, transfer and leave or graduate once they are done with their program. It also is extremely common in community colleges for students to take a few classes and then transfer to a different college or university.
Additionally, student's information — such as their major or program of study — must be kept up to date in all of the school's systems and applications. Though this may not seem like a huge deal, it can be a big headache for the IT department, especially when staff makes these changes manually. Even the task of creating accounts for an entire entering class can take hours or even days.
Ensuring that each student has an account and the correct access in the beginning of the semester or quarter is also a tremendous undertaking. Each student needs to have the appropriate access to all of the systems and applications they need for their classes.
All of these tasks and issues become intensified by the fact that the IT department at a community college is often smaller than that of a larger university. So, any small account or password issues can be a big issue and take up a great deal of time from an IT staff member.
Often though, community colleges hire a full-time employee whose sole task is to provision student accounts in the summer before the beginning of the term. Even with this full-time employee, there are often issues with the process, and students begin their classes without the correct access to the resources they need.
Professors then must use their own time to contact IT and correct any issues they have with their students' accounts, and ensure that the correct students are assigned to their class and have the proper access to learning and academic portals.
For example, MassBay Community College, of Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, was one college experiencing these account management issues. The community college was manually creating Active Directory and Gmail accounts for all of its students each semester, and its IT department had to manually update student information in its student information system (SIS) on a regular basis.
The college solved the issue with a solution used by many community colleges — an automated account management solution. This allowed school leaders the opportunity to automate their account management so that accounts were automatically created in the appropriate systems once the student was added to the student information system.
"It has been a great help in creating AD and Gmail accounts for our students and also at making updates to usernames when changes are made in our SIS system," said Terry Kramer of MassBay Community College.
Many community college leaders think an account management solution is only for larger universities, and that the cost would outweigh the benefits. They don't have a large budget to work with and need to focus on the areas that are most important. The truth is that many solutions are more cost-efficient than they believe, and can be purchased in modules of what the college needs.
If the IT department adds up all the time and resources they use before, during and after the semester to handle accounts, the cost is often larger than they realize. An automated account management solution allows the community college to reduce the cost of account management so that there does not have to be a full-time position for handling accounts, and IT no longer has to spend its time handling account and password issues.
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