Our student and staff help desk strives to ensure a smooth experience for our online learners and their advisers. An important part of this process is to take the time to make observations and reflect on the common issues users are having. This article will explore the most common issues that came across the help desk for the 2018-2019 school year.
Equipment problems fell into two categories. The first dealt with the software. The most common observation was the filtering software blocking access to the internet. To fix this, students would call into the help desk and have it reset. Resetting it seemed to fix the issue permanently as there were not follow up calls or tickets from the same students.
The second category was hardware issues. This included a wide range of problems. Some common observations were students with batteries not charging or power cables not working. Some students damaged the device by dropping it. Others just stopped working or became to slow to function. In all of these cases, a replacement device was provided. This seemed to be the best way to go rather than endless troubleshooting to figure out the exact problem. Students and staff were happy that they could continue working with minimal disruption.
Course Access Observations
The majority of course access came down to two different causes. The first was the browser blocking pop-ups which would cause the courses not to load or videos to display. The help desk addressed this by walking the students through the process of turning off the pop-up blocker.
The second was because of the connection between the computers and courses. This occurred most often when students were using the provider that required the most bandwidth. Whereas the first issue was an easy fix, this one was much harder to diagnose and address. In one instance, the student was working from a local coffee shop that did not have the best connection. Some students also do not have access to quality connections at their houses. Other times, waiting a couple hours seemed to resolve the problem.
Course Enrollment Observations
There were two different causes to course enrollment issues. The first was that students could not access the next part of the course. This usually occurred when the local adviser did not enroll them in the next section. Another cause tended to be typos in the start date or problems syncing to the LMS. The help desk was able to quickly address these issues or contact the local school district to enroll students in the next part of the course.
The second cause of course enrollment issues was students becoming locked out of a course. This occurred when students tried to work past the end date, or after the course had been closed. The help desk fixed this by extending the courses that students needed to continue working in.
The points above allow us to make some key observations concerning our support of online learners. Out of all the issues mentioned above, course access issue were the most frustrating to students. They could see the work they had to do, but when they would try and work on it, they would fail for some unknown reason. Because each situation was unique, it also took more time to diagnose and fix these access issues. Sometimes, it was a multi-day process. In comparison, most people seemed to expect devise issues. And, while course enrollment issues were frustrating, they were very easy to diagnose and fix. This demonstrates that when issues drag out to more than one day, people begin to become frustrated.
The overall satisfaction of users of the help desk sat around 93% for the year. Almost all of the negative ratings came because of course access issues. Because of this, making the courses easier to access with less possible frustration points is a goal for next year. Hopefully these observations are beneficial to others working to support online learners.