Technological Competency – Where Do We Draw the Line?

July 28th, 2010

Here’s a question I would like to pose: what is the minimum level of knowledge about technology we should require of our student affairs colleagues/professionals? Do they need to be HTML-literate? Do they need to understand the difference between location-based social networking and regular social networking? Do they need to be able to type on keyboard?

Obviously there are some extremes here, but I think this is a question that we need to start answering as we move forward with recruitment and professional development on our campuses. Within our student affairs division here, each office is responsible for updating and maintaining their own web pages, but I have found varying levels of ability. In fact, I still update a few of these myself because there are no full-time staff in the office who understand how to do this. Instead, some of these offices rely on student employees to do it, which is a fine practice…until they quit/go on break/get bored/get annoyed/pick your reason here. Website maintenance is still low on the totem pole of responsibilities in some offices – and not just on my campus.

How about those people that know of Facebook or other types of social media but refuse to participate? For how much longer will they be able to communicate with students? I hear the language on our campus changing rapidly to include terms that only a knowledgeable user would know, so how are people who think this is just a phase or rely on the old “kids today” mentality going to continue to be relevant in a student-centered career? (I will admit that I am well past being amused or entertained at people who don’t use Twitter coming up with “tweet”-focused language to mock it – it’s not cute or funny anymore, it’s just plain ignorant.)

And what about those people who still can’t figure out an Outlook calendar or mail merge? Shouldn’t there be a basic level of technological competency in these so that we don’t have to spend massive amounts of time training new employees (especially in high turnover offices like student housing or admissions) to complete simple tasks?

I’d be curious to hear where other folks draw the line – if they do – for technological competency and how they determine what is important for their offices. I’m thinking of including some of this in our strategic plan and overall office structure as I move forward with some long-term planning, but sometimes I wonder where to start.