Telecommunications Support- Not Just for the I.T. Department Anymore

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

We tell our students –“for technical issues, call I.T.” And yet, they still turn to us as the person they believe has a vested interest in helping them solve any issue so they can be successful in our course. What is our information technology/telecomm support role? Should we have one?


Dr. Vicky Seehusen has been a Business and Computer Information Systems professor for almost three decades and an online professor for 19 years. She has designed and taught online courses in business, computer applications and telecommunications/networking. She mentors and trains faculty in the use of learning management systems including Blackboard and Desire2Learn. In 1999, she spear-headed the development of the first online faculty training program in the Colorado Community College System. Recently, she became certified by Quality Matters Program, which is used by online programs throughout the world to assess and improve their online courses.

Extended Abstract

In 2006, the Telecommunications Research and Development committee reported three areas of telecommunications impact.  Firstly, societal communications – those that include work, play, and education - are increasingly impacted by telecommunications. Secondly, rural areas in the U.S. and areas in developing nations are now able to participate in opportunities that were once limited to cities. Thirdly, telecommunications plays a pivotal role in natural disaster recovery, homeland security, transfer of vital intelligence, and continued military superiority (Lucky, R.W., Eisenberg, J., Editors, 2006).

Fiztgerald (2018) listed three trends in (tele)communications and networking:

First, pervasive networking will change how and where we work and with whom we do business. Pervasive networking means that we will have high speed communications networks everywhere, and that virtually any device will be able to communicate with any other device in the world.  Prices for these networks will drop and the globalization of world economies will continue to accelerate.  Second, the integration of voice, video, and data onto the same networks will greatly simplify networks and enable anyone to access any media at any point. Third, the rise in these pervasive, integrated networks will mean a significant increase the availability of information and new information services.  (Fitzgerald, 2017)

Deloitte states that 5G telecommunications and the rapid rise of the internet of things (IoT) will be growth opportunities. (Outlook, 2018)

As distance educators, we certainly know how important telecommunications is. Indeed, many educational support organizations have been encouraging faculty from kindergarten to College to become technically literate since the early 2000’s.

So, we know we would have a difficult time doing our jobs without telecommunications. Yet, there is often a mistaken belief that we need only be subject matter experts.  We tell our students “if you have a technical issue, call the I.T. department.” And yet, when faced with information technology or telecommunications (IT/Telecomm) issues, our students still turn to us.  As the course professor, we are the person students “know” and trust.  We are the people students believe has a vested interest in helping them solve their telecommunications and connections issues, if only so they can be successful in our courses.

And it well may be that our institution does not provide 24/7 help desk support. So what do we tell our student who is having a problem at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night?  We cannot possibly anticipate every IT/telecomm problem students might have, but we CAN take steps to be prepared and thus eliminate unnecessary roadblocks to learning and stress for both students and ourselves

As a group, we will look at some of basic knowledge the presenter uses often to support her online students. We will then explore the following questions as time permits:

  • Do we know the strengths, limitations, and idiosyncrasies of our Learning Management System?
  • Do we know how to find the information we need to refer to when students are having IT/Telecomm issues?
  • Do we know how to set up browsers so students can achieve maximum effectiveness with tools such as, Cengage Mindtap McGraw Hill Connect, Pearson MYLABs, and other online teaching/learning tools?
  • Do we believe we have a role to play in IT/Telecomm support? If not, how do we deal with the issues?
  • If we believe we have a role to play in IT/Telecomm support, where have we found our basic IT/Telecomm knowledge? What does that look like?
  • What level of flexibility do we offer to students when problems arise?
  • Does this lack of technical literacy on the part of students contribute to losing those students?
  • How do we encourage students to gain basic IT/Telecomm literacy?

The end-result of this session is to create a resource document and possible "roadmap" online faculty and support specialists can refer to as they grapple with the best ways to support online students in their organizations.