Understanding Today

This week Bomgar will be exhibiting at the EDUCAUSE 2010 Annual Conference, which brings together IT professionals, experts and vendors within higher education.  Bomgar works with more than 250 educational organizations, and we understand their constant struggle to be “cutting edge” while also cutting budgets.  But the latest class of students has brought some additional challenges to campus.  Even if you aren’t in the education market, you should take note of these trends.  By this time next year, many of these students will be your new employees.

Campuses are expanding virtually.  4.6 million, or one in four, students took at least one online course during the fall 2008 term, the most recent year tracked by the Sloan Report on Online Learning.  For an online student, technology is their link to everything: lessons, submitting assignments, even communicating with their instructor.  This puts a lot of pressure on IT to ensure students are up and running and able to access the tools and applications they need 24/7. The good news for businesses is that future employees will be used to, and hopefully better at, learning through online training.  

Students are trading books for laptops. Digital textbooks are expected to grow to four percent of overall sales this year, rising to 11 percent by 2013, according to Simba Information.  As students’ dependency on digital assets and online tools grow, some universities are electing to equip all of their students with laptops.  For example, this summer Villanova University rolled out their new laptop program, which gives all undergraduate students a laptop as part of their tuition.  Schools not taking that route still face Bring Your Own Computer, or BYOC, where students bring their own system to campus and expect it to be supported.  Suddenly IT is expected to support all of these devices, whether they’re PCs, Macs, or an iPad.  BYOC is something for which businesses need to prepare.  All of those Villanova students get to keep their laptop upon graduation, and guess where they’ll want to bring them?  Right into your environment.

Millennials want a quick fix.  The Millennial Generation (or Gen Y) has different expectations when it comes to support.  They grew up with Google providing instant answers and helicopter parents solving all of their problems.  When they have an issue, they expect it to be fixed instantaneously with little to no effort on their part. They don’t want to wait for an email response or bring their device into campus IT.  They also prefer to use tools such as chat or text versus picking up the phone, forcing IT departments to revamp their support channels.  Villanova’s support team handles its 50,000 annual transactions mainly through online resources and social networking.  CIO Stephen Fugale recently told CIO Magazine that their students are more apt to check Facebook than their voice messages, and more likely to answer a text message than a call to their mobile phone.  "We found out that calling them and telling them by leaving a message on their cell phone that their PC is repaired—they were not picking up their cell phone.”  We can expect those same habits will carry over into the workplace.

We’re excited to speak with the folks on the higher ed IT front lines this week and learn more about challenges their facing.  We’ll be sharing some of their thoughts in this blog and via Twitter.  If you’re headed to EDUCAUSE don’t forget to stop by our booth (#541) to enter for a free trip to Vegas!

Liz Shulof is the SVP of Marketing at Bomgar

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