Any good college has technology. And any form of technology is going to have glitches and breakdowns. It’s a consequence of our extremely rapid development in the field of technology: we innovate faster than we can perfect.
To combat this technological gap, we have information technology (I.T.). As things break down, the faithful I.T. staff comes to fix things up, remove bad technology and add new updates.
It stands to reason that bigger colleges are going to have bigger I.T. staffs. More students requires more technology, which means more breakdowns. But just because a college is a bit smaller doesn’t mean that the I.T. department goes out the window.
Bethel College’s I.T. department is headed up by Todd Lemons, who, along with a staff of help desk coordinators and maintenance personnel, keeps the tech at Bethel running smoothly.I talked with Cameron Matteson, who can usually be spotted dashing around campus solving various tech problems, about what a typical day looks like for him.Matteson’s typical hours are weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. unless there’s a special event on campus. He does any kind of computer maintenance, such as installations, internet connections, cameras and even the card-swipe system. I.T. also accepts students’ technology that needs tuning up in their office. Students can bring laptops and phones directly into the office to get repaired rather than trying to figure it out themselves. Along with Matteson, there are two other staff members who do what he does: Andrea Blake, the help desk manager, and Tim Matteson, educational technology manager. Tim Matteson is generally the one called upon for specific classroom maintenance, while Cameron is more of a general fixer-upper. The work is spread between these three workers, which, depending on how you look at it, could be a good thing or a bad thing. It could be a good thing because a smaller I.T. staff could mean more personal interaction, as well as less money for the school to spend. On the other hand, a smaller I.T. staff could mean slower service and less interaction as a whole. As a benchmark comparison, let’s take a look at relative I.T. staffs at schools that have a similar size to Bethel. Bethel has an enrollment of around 1,700 students. Similarly, Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind. had an enrollment of around 2,000 students last year. And Taylor University in Upland, Ind. has an enrollment of around 2,500 students. Bethel’s I.T. staff runs around 6 or 7 staff members. Grace has 8 staff members. Taylor has a whopping 28. A little math will tell you that this gives Bethel, Grace and Taylor a staff-to-student ratio of 242:1, 250:1 and 89:1 respectively. So the question is, do Bethel and Grace have extremely small staffs or does Taylor have an unusually large staff? Well, as with all business, the real issue is, are the customers happy? I asked Matteson if he ever felt like he needed help or a bigger staff. He said that he doesn’t typically feel overwhelmed. “Sometimes in spurts,” he said, “so if there’s a big change, that typically will have a lot of people coming in and asking questions about it, and so that can take up a lot of time. But it’s never a consistent feeling of being overwhelmed. It’s more just there are peak times and there are times that are more relaxed and I can get other side projects done.” I also asked him how he gauges the Bethel community’s satisfaction with I.T.’s service. Matteson said that they have reached out to students for feedback, such as sending out a survey following the new wifi system that was installed over the summer. That survey brought the staff’s attention to an issue students were having with their connections being dropped. But Matteson said that they usually don’t get as many responses as they’d like. “We don’t typically hear back as much as we’d like to,” he said, “because that was an issue that we didn’t know there was. Now that we know that it is an issue that’s something that we actually are looking into and trying to see what we can change in that and what we can tweak. But we don’t hear as much as we’d like.” Matteson said that I.T. doesn’t usually hear about problems until they become big problems. He said that many times problems aren’t that hard to fix. He related the story of a student who hadn’t been using their laptop all semester because they couldn’t connect to the network. The problem was easily fixed when the student contacted the staff. So are I.T. problems due to a small staff compared to other schools, or is it instead due to a lack of users seeking out help? Either way, it looks like some settings are in need of some adjusting when it comes to students and I.T.