U consolidates info tech services in Coffman

The new Tech Stop location, which opened in late January, had its grand opening Thursday.

Though technology offers many alternatives to in-person communication, the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Office of Information Technology is aiming to increase face-to-face time, at least in the realm of tech troubleshooting, with a new Coffman Union help center. In an effort to bring one-stop-shop help to students, staff and faculty, OIT has closed several of its walk-in tech-help locations and opened a more comprehensive center in the former STA Travel location on CoffmanâÄôs first floor January 26. They celebrated with a grand opening Thursday. âÄúThis is all-in-one,âÄù Simin Hickman, OIT director of customer engagement, said. People can get help setting up a computer, getting rid of viruses, connecting to wireless networks, other consulting and some repairs. Though OIT has previously offered in-person help through âÄúminute clinicsâÄù in computer labs, and Centennial Hall and West Bank help centers, Hickman said CoffmanâÄôs Tech Stop has more services in one place than any previous location. A Shepherd Laboratories tech help station closed last fall, and with the opening of CoffmanâÄôs Tech Stop, OIT also closed the Centennial location. Though St. Paul is without walk-in tech help now, OIT plans to open a Tech Stop, similar to CoffmanâÄôs, in Coffey Hall this summer. The Student Unions and Activities Board of Governors , which voted in Tech Stop last November, thought it was a good fit for Coffman, board president and accounting and history senior Tim Weiske said. OIT approached them about using the space, which was vacated when STA Travel closed last summer, he said. The University terminated STAâÄôs lease, which would have lasted through this June, to rent the space to OIT, Jason Hancock, associate director of student unions and activities, said. Other rental options would have been limited by an agreement with University Bookstores and Dining Services that requires their approval of any business that would compete with them, like a clothing or food retailer, Hancock said. But OIT approached Coffman before any other potential businesses, so the issue didnâÄôt arise, Hancock added. The location is already opening about 50 âÄútickets,âÄù which OIT uses to keep track of each customerâÄôs problems daily, Hickman said, and they plan to expand their services. Paul Honsey , an OIT supervisor, said theyâÄôre in the processing of getting certified to do warranty work for Apple, Dell and Lenovo, so for the first time, students can go through OIT to get services covered by their machinesâÄô warranties. CoffmanâÄôs Tech Stop isnâÄôt set up to do bigger repairs, so people will still need to get those done at OITâÄôs University Avenue location. But Tech Stop staff can evaluate problems and do some repairs, Honsey said. Simply being able to see customersâÄô problems reduces troubleshooting time, Hickman said. ItâÄôs hard for people to ask the right questions and effectively communicate over the phone when dealing with computer problems, she said. Economics sophomore Justin Varghese , who answers OIT helpline calls, agreed. âÄúMost people canâÄôt explain their computer problems over the phone,âÄù Varghese said, adding that heâÄôs been directing many callers to CoffmanâÄôs Tech Stop. ItâÄôs an improvement over the one-person âÄúminute clinicâÄù in CoffmanâÄôs basement computer lab, he said, because there are more people to help out if one employee canâÄôt answer a question. Human resources development and business and marketing education sophomore Staci Lee Smith was using Tech Stop for the second time Thursday. âÄúShould I add the standard or the custom version of Firefox?âÄù she asked. She was getting help setting up her computer and removing unnecessary programs. âÄúEveryone needs computer help all year round,âÄù she said. âÄúI think itâÄôs a much better use of space [than STA Travel].âÄù