One of our number who retires this year gave a fascinating talk about his 40 years in IT. From his time as a high energy physicist in the Rutherford labs in the 60s, to the challenges of being an IT Director today. Chatham House rules for most of the talk, obviously, so I can't repeat much, but it is amazing how much we currently take for granted, that is still fairly recent. The network we all use for example - JANET - he played a key part in establishing. I bet most people think it stands for Joint Academic Network - well, it does now, but when it started, it was the name of his PA!
The final session was an interesting and lively discussion led by Jeff Haywood from Edinburgh on students' experiences of CIT. Lots of good stuff from his research on students in Edinburgh. Students tend to overrate their IT skills, especially males, and when they get to university, although their skills are good, they're mainly for social use rather than academic. In schools their use of IT has been very standardised - they're not used to finding out how to do things themselves for example. They're very good at file-uploading and sharing, social networking, word processing and the internet, but their technical skills are not so good - things like antivirus, patching etc. What they want are fast, seamless web services accessed though a single point - this is very important to them.
In terms of help and support, it's not clear from the research whether help reaches the most needy. Laptops and connectivity are the main areas for support, and it's needed 24*7. Most students will turn to peers, friends and relatives for help before using helpdesks etc. Most can connect to wireless networks, but find vpn difficult. There's a need for proactive help - don't wait for the students to come to us, but get out there and help them. Induction before arrival is also important - send them information as soon as they've accepted a place.