Information Technology Executive Director Mary Corcoran. Photo by Lee Pellegrini
Boston College had offered a Help Desk service for the University community for several years, but with the introduction of the Technology Consultant program in January of 1999, its functions were incorporated into the Student Learning and Support Center in O'Neill Library.
Information Technology administrators say the return of the Help Desk - one of several IT projects in the works this academic year - will complement the work of the technology consultants.
"Before 1999, there was not a lot of good local expertise," said Information Technology Executive Director Mary Corcoran. "Fewer people had knowledge of computers and, when problems arose, a phone call was not always the most practical solution. The TCs [technology consultants] came in and changed that, and took on some of the role of the help center."
Administrators say they hope the new call-in Help Center will offer users an efficient means of addressing their technology issues.
"The TCs are full partners at the table with us in designing this," said Corcoran, who credited Raymond Rivera and Ted Gaiser of Academic Technology Services for their collaboration on the Help Center.
"We expect to be able to offer quick support in a wide range of areas," said Computing Support Director Christopher Carpenter. "It's our goal to make this easier for the users, instead of having them constantly go through a series of recorded voices and menus."
Corcoran points out that new options for computer or communications support have become available at BC in the years since the Help Desk was closed. While some offices rely heavily on technology consultants, she said, others have access to specialized support for certain applications such as PeopleSoft or Agora.
These avenues of support will be maintained, but a new call-in center will offer an additional source of help, she says, especially for routine tasks that do not require the assistance of a technology consultant, such as changing a user's Personal Identification Number.
"This would really free up the TCs to handle more complex problems," said Corcoran. "What we're trying to do is fill in the gaps of support so that end users have plenty of help options at their disposal.
"We hope that by centralizing support we can tap into the wide pool of knowledge within our organization," said Corcoran.
She said a centralized support system also should enable managers to spot network-wide problems such as viruses.
"If all of a sudden there are a number of calls coming in on the same subject, we'll know that there's a widespread problem" said Corcoran. "If we can spot trends early, then we will be able solve problems sooner."
Currently the call-in center, which can be reached at ext.2-HELP, is set up to service student needs. Carpenter said ITS will test-pilot the new help center with a few departments this fall before it becomes fully operational next semester.
Another current Information Technology project entails the migration of BC user accounts to a new single domain called "BC." This will allow users to log on to the domain named BC after the project is completed, instead of the current A-H, I-P or Q-Z.
Administrators say that as computing networks become more complex, network operating systems must manage the relationships between interdependent resources. A directory service is the hub around which a large distributed system functions. A single directory will simplify network management, strengthen security, and increase interoperability.
Thanks to another IT initiative, all BC faculty and staff will now be able to use the calendar and scheduling service CorporateTime to electronically schedule meetings, create a list of to-do tasks, and request rooms or equipment as specified by their department.
Also underway is an effort to improve the security of the Personal Identification Number (PIN), which is used by students and employees to log onto University computer systems or for making long distance telephone calls. The new PIN improves the method by which a person's identity is electronically confirmed.
The password project is part of Boston College's continuing effort to better protect personal information and university data from unauthorized use. All users are required to change their PIN. For more information see www.bc.edu/password/.
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