Sandy Keeter, Professor at Seminole State College in the Information Technology Department
Do you feel like a traffic cop, managing and directing the flow of your students? Or do you feel like a firefighter, fighting fires? Although instructors are not expected or expected to provide technical support, they are the first line to resolve student problems. Here are some best practices for managing student tech support issues in Intro Computing courses using MindTap collections/SAM.
Get familiar with the Content and Platform
It is important to be familiar with the products you use in your classes. This will allow you to anticipate problems and assist students when they are stuck. To ensure that your students are ready for the challenges ahead, be diligent and make use of training. Many instructors find it helpful to go through SAM assignments before their students. This makes them more prepared to answer questions. Both students and faculty can find technical issues frustrating, but they can be managed if you are proficient and comfortable with the tools you use to teach. Students will lose confidence in your course materials and instructors if they make excuses for mistakes or reduce grades.
Course design can set students up for success
Clear learning paths with clear assignment details will make learning easier. To help students launch, complete and access SAM assignments and their reports, you might offer a few low-stakes tasks. Students should see the value in reviewing their Study Guides and Graded Summary Reports. This will allow them to identify and rectify errors and train to correct them.
You can embed existing training tools, guides, and FAQs from your college, university, or learning management system. These tools can be used to create an account, log in, navigate the course, complete assignments, and so on. If this is not enough, you might consider creating your own self-help materials (written and video guides). Students should be able to understand and appreciate the products they use and how to fix them. It doesn’t matter if it is a technical issue or user error, students just want it fixed so they can continue their work.
You might also consider an orientation quiz to ensure students are fully aware of course expectations and requirements. You can give students confidence and help them prepare for the future by giving them a few low-stakes activities to get started in the first two weeks. Avoid confusing students with unnecessary information or tools.
Manage Students’ Expectations Early
Common support issues in the first semester include product codes, account issues and hardware/software incompatibility. Browser issues and LMS integration launch issues are all common. To make it easier for your students to get started, fill out your learning management system or syllabus with the key information.
Include instructions on how to register an access code and purchase options for course materials. You will find resources you need to support the registration process at http://startstrong.cengage.com.
Help students decide if Cengage Unlimited is right for them.
Place tech support links (i.e., https://support.cengage.com) and contact information in your syllabus and LMS where students can find the information easily.
SAM Training and Exams are available on any device. SAM Projects require an install version of Office. Not the limited functionality browser-based version. Students using Chromebooks and iPads will need to plan to complete work in another device or in a campus laboratory.
Many institutions offer Microsoft 365 free of charge to students. Share this blog post with students to help them understand how to access Microsoft 365.
Although most SAM projects can easily be completed using Office for MAC for most purposes, Access courses will require Windows to complete that portion of the course. If they are unable to access campus labs, give them information on how to install Windows using parallels or bootcamp.
Make a plan to answer assignment/content questions
Simple errors in assignments are not tech support issues. This could cause students to have their work delayed. These issues can be resolved by discussions, videos, or eTextbook annotations. You can also review the student’s report and give prompt feedback. If the problem is not resolved or multiple students are experiencing the same issue, you should submit a case to tech support.