The IT profession is putting new emphasis on people skills, especially for those who work at the intersection of education and technology. To improve the service they provide and establish themselves as trusted advisors, campus technology teams will have to hone those interpersonal skills. That was one of the conclusions drawn by academic leaders participating in a recent Herman Miller roundtable.
Building relationships with faculty members will give IT technology teams the opportunity to show them new ways technology can enhance learning. Technology teams can also help educators, who fear looking foolish in front of their tech-savvy students, get comfortable with new technologies by, for example, providing safe places for faculty to experiment and learn without students watching.
Improving relationships with faculty will likely help technology teams connect with another constituency—students, who are more motivated to use a tool when the professor builds it into class requirements. Another student-related obstacle for technology teams is that students don’t use the IT help desk. To combat “out of sight is out of mind,” one academic technology team put its representatives in every residence hall. Another moved its entire service organization and help desk into the main academic building, which most students have to pass through at some point during the day.
The roundtable participants agreed that first order of business for technology teams, however, is strengthening the bonds within their own teams. IT leaders, as one participant said, “need to have honest conversations with their teams [about the additional skills they need]. . .and create an environment of trust.” They also need to provide their team members with the resources and training they’ll need to take on new responsibilities that are more dependent on relationship skills than their technical expertise. “You have to really work with your folks to get them ready to be able to listen—to understand, for example, whether something is a business need or a learning-strategy need,” said a participant. “It’s no longer about commodity computing.”