Survey your customers to help them track and plan better collaboration solutions.

If your higher-education customers are not on top of their own technology usage patterns as well as fast-moving trends, you need to help them ramp up fast. That’s a tall order, but don’t be intimidated. Start the conversation with your customers by offering to help them survey their current usage and their evolving challenges and needs. This informal survey approach is often more engaging than a pure sales approach and can help you further strengthen your trusted advisor status for all things higher education.

To engage your customers on the new needs of higher-ed collaboration, start with these questions to prepare for a deeper conversation about their future needs.

  • In your college/university, roughly what percentage of all remote or hybrid courses have you transitioned to a synchronous modality? What percentage to an asynchronous modality?

In a synchronous model, instructors and students gather (remotely) and interact in real time. An asynchronous model is the opposite. Instructors prepare course materials for students in advance, and students may access the materials when they choose. Of course, the synchronous model allows for more collaboration between students and instructors. By mapping out your mix of synchronous vs. asynchronous, outside the day-to-day pressures of teaching, you’ll start to get a better idea for what platform features and collaboration hardware students and instructors need.

  • Do you choose your web conferencing platform (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.) based mainly on its ability to integrate with Canvas or any other LMS (Learning Management System)? If yes, why?
  • Platform limits: If the school’s admins have decided to use all Microsoft Teams or all Zoom, for example, does the Teams or Zoom agreement have certain limits and/or features such as storage limits (e.g., 5GB per user), local recording, etc.? How has the actual usage evolved over the semester?
  • Beyond the basics: In your school, roughly what percentage of courses campus-wide are using collaboration tools/features that go beyond the basic one-to-many webcast of a professor lecturing to remote students?
  • What are the most complex remote collaboration/teaching use cases you’ve been asked to facilitate? In other words, applications beyond a professor lecturing to remote students. For example, a lab, an interactive seminar with data sharing, etc. Start building a small “library” or archive of use cases and what you’ve been asked to provide in terms of instructional modalities – the platform, cameras, video, interactive capabilities, etc. And note the necessary end result. For example, bringing in remote guest speakers, file/video sharing in real time, etc.
  • Are instructors using large digital video displays (LCD panels, LED displays, digital whiteboards, video projectors, etc.) in classrooms? If yes, what kind? (Brand? Model? Touch-enabled? Wireless sharing/content upload to the big screen possible?) While the need for this information may seem obvious, many institutions are not adequately tracking their equipment usage.

Key takeaway: Only by tracking technology usage, plotted against the pedagogical application in either a synchronous or synchronous model, will schools be able to step away from the daily pressures of teaching and start building roadmaps of their evolving needs. As the integrator/technology provider, you can help your customer get there while solidifying your trusted advisor status. And best all, SYNNEX can back you up with their own extensive data, insights, and curated product solutions for evolving education models.