As its student body became more and more geographically dispersed, Central Michigan University (CMU) of Mt. Pleasant had to come up with a way to provide technology support to its growing base of non-traditional students, as well as faculty and staff.

Previously, the 25,000-student institution used onsite visits to handle the job–a strategy that proved unviable in today’s distance education age. Add in the fact that tech-savvy students have come to expect online forms of support, such as chat, and it was clear that CMU needed a better system.

“We noticed that our online enrollment was growing tremendously,”  said Jeffrey McDowell, help desk manager for CMU’s Office of Information Technology. Between 2005 and 2007, for example, the school’s online enrollment doubled, making the task of “supporting online students from anywhere” challenging for the institution, said McDowell.

“It’s really a double challenge because on one hand students have to connect to the school and access learning materials,” he explained, “and on the other they aren’t in close proximity to us, so they can’t just bring in their laptops or have a technician run over to their classrooms to solve technology problems.” Read More