A Toast to the Technicians!

Posted on Wednesday, June 14, 2017 by Venn GroupNo comments

A relative of mine who was a lecturer at a university had a favourite person called Alex. The students never saw Alex or her colleagues; they operated from a room in the corner of a remote corridor at the back of the building. But without Alex, the world would have stopped turning. Lectures would have been cancelled, essays wouldn’t be marked on time, background information would fail to appear on the intranet, and most of the academic staff would be suffering from high blood pressure.

Alex and her IT support team were the beating heart at the centre of this vast and complex organisation. No one in this department was teaching IT; it was the hub of the esoteric and strictly non-technical humanities. Here were linguists and philosophers,  historians and poets and any number of –ologists.  And each and every one depended on the IT support team.

Their own faculties and departments had no interest in systems and software, in updates and outages. Historians were firmly lodged in the time of the Tudors and the Stuarts; the English staff were renowned for the quality of their fountain pens. All were reluctantly lured into the 21st century of online grade-marking, of video links in PowerPoint presentations. They belonged in a world of notices pinned onto boards outside departmental offices. A world of students who paid rapt attention while taking notes – though perhaps not with a fountain pen – rather than the rows of heads bowed over laptops in lecture theatres.

So when they couldn’t log on in the morning, when the link between PowerPoint screen and computer mysteriously disappeared, it was the IT support staff who saved the day. Indeed, they had a marriage guidance function when one document was proving to be incompatible with another.

The students knew the lecturers, of course. They rated them by entertainment value, and by their apparent inability to understand the app-aligned world into which their generation had been born. And they never took much notice of the (never-introduced) stranger who was summoned into the seminar room and departed after apparently waving a magic wand. So here’s to you, the mysterious, never publicly-acclaimed backroom IT support staff at the heart of every Education institution.


Michael Burnip, Venn Group

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