The BCcampus Help Desk Secret Service

From answering IT related questions from students, administrators, and educators, to website maintenance and more – The BCcampus Help Desk team keeps all of our services running smoothly, all-the-while doing it with a cool, calm demeanour and a smile on their faces.

This is the sixth installment in the staff highlight series, following in the footsteps of Mary Burgess, Executive DirectorDenise Goudy, Director, BCcampusthe Professional Learning team, the Open Education team and the EdTech and Collaborative Services team.

We managed to pull Paula Gaube and Elaine Baird, the faces behind the BCcampus Help Desk, aside to ask them a few questions about their roles and what makes them excited to come to work each day. Find out what they had to say:

The Help Desk team

Paula Gaube, Information Services Coordinator

What would be something few people would know about the work that you do?

Elaine and I often get to learn how to use new tools and services before others at BCcampus. We like learning new things!

What is the best thing about working at BCcampus?

The people I work with are great and because we support so many services, every day is a little bit different. I’m very interested in education and helping others and the people I work with are too. It’s also nice to be able to have geeky technical conversations with coworkers.

What are some of the challenges in working in a unit like the help desk?

As Information Service Coordinators, we track down the answers to questions (or find the right person to answer the question) and then have to turn technical, geeky information into an easily understood answer. Sometimes it takes a while to craft an elegant response.

What is the majority of the type of help you provide?

The majority of our time is spent answering questions from students, administrators, and educators about the various services BCcampus supports (e.g., B.C. Open Textbook Project, Online Collaborative Programs, WriteAway, EducationPlannerBC). We also send out service-wide notices and help other BCcampus staff with internal tasks as needed.

Do you find it a barrier providing support via email only?

Most of the time we can solve problems quickly through email, though it does take time to write a response to tricky questions. The great thing about email is we have a record of the question and our response so that we can refer to it later if someone else experiences a similar issue. Occasionally we need to call people to help sort out complicated issues, but for the most part, we prefer providing support through email only.

Elaine Baird, Information Services Coordinator

When you end your work day feeling great – what is that usually based on? 

A great day is when all questions that I’ve responded to have been completely resolved on the same day they arrived. A really great day is when every question has been completely resolved with only one response from me. (Some questions that we are asked can take weeks to complete, e.g., I am retiring in two months, please delete my account then, and set up my replacement’s account.)

Job sharing the help desk must be challenging, what types of processes or tools do you use to make sure both of you are aware of what is happening with request/work/ etc.

Zimbra desktop and Confluence are our main tools. We share the same helpdesk inbox and use the “conversation” view of the entire email trail so that we can easily take over where the other person left off. We keep all email for 5 years. We rarely use blind-carbon-copy, unless we’re sending notices of system outages; no secrets here – my apology if you feel like helpdesk is spamming you. 🙂 We use Confluence to document any complicated procedures and create a daily update page to note anomalies of the day.

Who is served by the help desk? It is mostly IT or logging on type of requests?

We serve BCcampus staff, provincial post-secondary staff and applicants, online collaborative students, eTutoring/WriteAway staff, and others. We are the communicators; we take tech-speak and turn it into layperson language. Logging on accounts are less than 20% of requests but because of the variety of account types can be time-consuming to solve.

Some people think of the help desk as the triage unit at a hospital – is that true?

I don’t think of helpdesk as hospital triage – nothing that we deal with is a matter of life or death. I think we are like traffic cops –if something runs amok, it could take awhile to fix, but no lives are ever lost.

Do you need to be the keeper of knowledge – do you need to know everything to do your job?

We don’t need to know everything; we need to know who does know. We are life-long learners and we each have our favourite BCcampus areas of interest. The more we know, the faster we can reply. We have a self-imposed policy of answering every query within 24 hours on a business day, even if it’s merely to acknowledge that we’re looking for the solution.

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