Have you ever wondered where the golf carts that whiz around on campus are going? Some of these people are members of William & Mary’s Classroom Support team, which serves as the backbone of technology equipment and support in the classroom.
So, what does Classroom Support do every day? They are W&M’s main technical operators, meaning when there is a technology-related issue in the classroom, they fix it.
Every Monday morning, as Tyson Thorpe, video conferencing & classroom support engineer explains, Classroom Support comes into all classrooms on campus before eight AM in order to check that the equipment is in its place and that it is functional. He says: “The best part of this process is that every Monday, we can start off the week knowing everything is in working order.”
However, when issues arise, the team is ready to respond. Jessica Benton, video conference & classroom support technician, says that while most fixes are pretty simple, if a problem cannot be fixed in a maximum of 10 minutes, then the Classroom Support team must come back when class is no longer in session to allow for continuation of classroom instruction, unless requested by the professor. It is very rare when an issue cannot be resolved in over an hour.
If there is a technical problem in the classroom, Thorpe encourages faculty to not attempt to fix the issue. He explains: “99% of the problems cannot be fixed by faculty because Classroom Support has to get inside the locked podiums.”
To succeed at this job, knowledge of current technology is not the only thing in which you have to excel. Benton explains that it is a “necessity to learn as technology grows, which is a requirement for any IT job.”
Another crucial part of the job, according to Benton, is the ability to stay calm and to be able to think clearly in highly intense situations. She explains: “My favorite part of this job is that it is not a desk job. At times, it can be intense. It keeps you on your feet.”
The most rewarding part of working in Classroom Support is the satisfaction that is received from helping others. Thorpe describes Classroom Support as “the only department that receives applause when you leave.” However, emphasizes Thorpe, people working in Classroom Support “not only have to like helping people, but also have to excel at it. Knowing the technology is one thing, but knowing how to properly work in customer service and keeping a calm demeanor in difficult situations is another.”
“We are like mailmen who must work in the rain, snow, or sleet,” explains Benton. If classes are being held, then someone will always be available to help resolve any issues. Thorpe adds that “if there are not a large amount of calls in a day, that means we are doing something right.”
Classroom Support also performs multiple other tasks. Benton describes Classroom Support as a “jack of all trades department.” Aside from fixing technical issues in classrooms, they also do a number of duties in their Jones Hall office suite. Ever call the university’s main phone number? If you do, the operator you talk to is from Classroom Support. The office also holds all of the power tools, cables, and batteries for W&M IT. They allow faculty to rent out video conferencing equipment. In addition, they also enable communication with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), which allows students to study Marine Science courses from the main campus.
Although working in Classroom Support can be challenging, nothing can compare to the satisfaction that Thorpe and Benton receive at the end of each day. “Go to work at a place you love every day,” advises Thorpe. As the saying goes, you will never work a day in your life.