Develop: Work-Based Learning Experiences

Develop: Work-Based Learning Experiences

Identify Student Learning Outcomes

Aligning student learning and school service outcomes is an important step to informing your program’s structure and vision. Below you will find detailed resources for different student learning pathways that foster student capacity and skills to support the service model’s (presented above) standard operating procedures. The skills represented by these pathways fall into two types: 1) technical skills required to set up, configure, and repair hardware, software, and networking, and 2) people skills necessary for effectively engaging with customers, clients, and coworkers as a member of a Help Desk. It is important to note that each school or district may have students serve different procedures in this service model. For example, student help may focus on servicing devices or supporting networks behind the scenes  in “Provide Service” while others may have students develop communications and service skills that allow them to process and assign requests by communicating with clients or customers on the phone or through electronic communications associated with  an automated ticketing system.

These learning pathways also address the student help desk goals outlined above in Step 1: Define the Goals of the Help Desk. The learning pathways may integrate suggested learning activities, authentic problems of practice, and resources as they align to the service model and portfolio (Goal 1 – Support School Technology Service Needs), specific NC Employability Skills and industry-level competency progressions (Goal 2 – Build Students’ Valuable and Real-World Skills), and credentials students earn along the way (Goal 3 – Provide Opportunities to Earn Credentials).

Key Steps

Student Learning Pathways

Building Technical Skills through CompTIA Certification

Schools and districts who are interested in building the capacity of students to set up, monitor, and repair devices, software, and networking in order to contribute to a help desk should consider coursework aligned to the CompTIA Certifications. These are industry-standard certifications that many IT workers obtain either to become employed or early into employment to maintain and further their careers. CompTIA provides instructional materials in the form of student and instructor textbooks, videos, and presentations at a reduced fee for qualified academic institutions. In North Carolina, three existing CTE courses are already aligned to the three levels of CompTIA Certification as indicated below and qualified CTE students can take the certification exams at no cost.

The CompTIA IT Fundamentals course described below is a the starting point for this three-course sequence. This course provides a critical first stepping stone toward recognized IT industry competencies and prepares student to sit for the first certification. Linked to this website you will find detailed curriculum, unit and lesson planning, class schedules, and aligned educational and industry competencies and standards that are designed to be delivered in a work-based learning environment in which students develop foundational skills while developing or modifying documentation and procedures for the Help Desk knowledge base. The course also embeds activities and resources that allow students to develop and hone people skills aligned to customer service competencies related to HDI certification described later.

  • CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+): The IT Fundamentals course provides students with a general background on how computer systems operate, including setting up and troubleshooting basic issues related to hardware, software and networking. This course is relevant for students who may have experience using personal or school devices but have yet to explore set-up, application installation, and maintenance and repair issues. Students can attain CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+) Certification by successfully completing the FC0-U61 Exam.
  • Computer Engineering Technology I: This first of two courses required to be prepared for the A+ Certification digs deeper into hardware configuration and expands to laptop and mobile devices. They expand their knowledge and skills about networks and implement the CompTIA troubleshooting method to hardware, software, and networking issues. This course prepares students to address the requirements of the first exam required for A+ certification: Core 1 (220-1001).
  • Computer Engineering Technology II: The second of this two-part series explicitly incorporates people skills that have been embedded within the previous two sources. There is a focus on troubleshooting issues in the Windows OS and a deep dive into security of hardware and networks. This course should prepare students to complete the requirements for A+ certification through the second exam: A+ Core 2 (220-1002).

Building People Skills through HDI Certification

The Help Desk Institute (HDI) has generated standards for Help Desk personnel that, when demonstrated, can lead to industry-standard certifications in skills important for managing the work with customers, clients, and co-workers. These skills make students wishing to pursue work in IT more employable, and a Help Desk position is often the first step in employment that can lead to other IT careers. Competencies based on these skills are embedded within the CompTIA course sequence; however, activities aligned to the HDI competencies can be pulled from the coursework and incorporated into other learning paths independently, such as internship programs or after school Help Desk clubs or programs.

These competencies are especially suitable for students that already have expertise and experience with setting up and repairing hardware, software, and networking and who will be serving as an external voice and face for a Help Desk program. Each certification standard presents competencies in five categories: 1) leadership, 2) strategy and policy, 3) people management, 4) resources, 5) process and procedure, and 6) performance results. HDI provides courses for a fee obtainable on their website.

  • HDI-CSR Customer Service Representative Certification Standards: These competencies align to skills necessary for students to be successful as frontline help desk service representatives. The standards focus on the knowledge and skills students need to support the help desk with emphasis on assessing customer needs while exceeding their expectations. Skill areas include assessing call and service handling best practices, communication and listening techniques, documentation, problem-solving and troubleshooting skills, conflict negotiation, and responses to challenging customer behaviors.
  • HDI-DAST Desktop Advanced Service Technician Certification Standards: While these competencies overlap upon some of the skill areas in the HDI-CSR Certification Standards, especially problem-solving and troubleshooting skills, communication, and customer management, they dig deeper into the role and duties of a desktop advanced service technician. Advanced refers to the leadership skill necessary to move beyond simply repairing devices and other assets to understand how to expand and improve service at the enterprise level and serving as an effective advisor to other employees.
  • HDI-SCA Support Center Analyst Certification Standards: The standards for a support center analyst prepare students to better manage incidents and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the entire Help Desk system. Communication and problem-solving skills are still important, but they are encouraged to take a systems view of the work and use various metrics to analyze and improve the full process from initial client contact to customer follow up.



Determine Program Structure and Staffing

High School Students Taking Part In Group Discussion.

Structuring the Student Tech Team Work-Based Learning Experience

The North Carolina Department of Instruction’s Career and Technical Education (NC CTE) division offers thorough definition and resources around structuring work-based learning programs for students in “A Toolkit & Guide to Work-based Learning in North Carolina.”

The guide offers examples of grade-specific models for introducing work-based learning, types of work-based learning programs (e.g., field trips, internships, mentorship, entrepreneurial experiences, school-based enterprises, etc.), and describes roles and responsibilities of all involved (students, parents, business/mentors, teachers, etc.). In addition, extensive resources and paperwork are provided for launching the various types of work-based learning programs.

What work-based learning model fits best for a student tech team help desk? High school-level student tech teams align best to the NC CTE’s work-based learning phase of “Career Preparation.” In the Career preparation phase (typically grades 10-12), students develop competencies needed for college and career success through classroom academic and work-based skills.

Tech Teams, depending on how they are structured, could potentially fall under one or more of the following work-based learning structures described below. The various models are synthesized below; however, deeper exploration within the NC CTE guide is recommended.

Work-based Learning Environments

Internships: Defined by NC CTE as, “a work-based learning experience where a student participates in the daily operations of a work site under the direct supervision of a business mentor. The internship provides a realistic environment within which a student intern learns about a particular industry or occupation and applies knowledge and skills learned in the classroom” (p. 25, Career Technical Education, 2020). Internships can be paid or unpaid. Focus on alignment with courses is not as strong as other types of work-based learning programs but alternate forms of compensation for student intern work could include completing industry- level certifications upon completion of courses during help desk service.

Unit Plans for Internships

Interns are often required to have a Training Plan that identifies different competencies a student may be expected to work on as part of their internship. In addition, students may be involved in helping to create personal goals related to their Training Plan.

Industry-level certifications, such as those from HDI or CompTIA, may be a starting place for student interns, teacher coordinators, and workplace staff to find sample competencies to adopt or adapt in student Training Plans. Once identified, teacher coordinators and workplace staff may want to access some of the curricular resources.

Internships often require an application process in order to identify students with desired skills. This may allow many interns to quickly move into supporting technical issues related to a Help Desk program, such as managing common hardware repairs. Many employers report the need to also help students develop strong inter- and intrapersonal skills to complement their technical skills. For this reason, teacher coordinators and workplace staff that oversee interns may be interested in incorporating resources and suggested learning ideas from the Curriculum to help students develop these important complementary skills.

The following units were designed to address competencies identified by HDI as supporting the development of inter- and intrapersonal skills for Customer Service Representatives that may be incorporated into the Intern Training Plan.

Unit Outcomes HDI Topics
Unit 1.1: Building an Effective Team Student team members create norms and agreements for their work together. They set and agree on personal as well as team goals that are monitored by the supervisor 3.1 Teamwork
5.13 Conflict & Negotiation Skills
Unit 4.1: Communication Skills Students will create some communication guidelines and tips for use by Help Desk personnel. These may include tips for verbal as well as written communication. 5.11 Active Listening Skills
5.12 Relationship Building & Communication Skills
5.14 Documentation and Written Communication
Unit 5.1 Business Ethics and Computer Security After exploring potential ethical dilemmas within the scope of the Help Desk policies and procedures, students should develop guidance for Help Desk personnel on possible actions for those dilemmas to add to the Help Desk information base. 1.2 Business Ethics
1.3 Role of the Customer Service Representative

Apprenticeship: Apprenticeship involves skilled occupational training that combines authentic work experiences with related academic and technical instruction. An apprentice works on the job for an employer and is taught and supervised by an experienced person in the chosen occupation. Apprenticeships, where training typically ranges from two to four years, follow predetermined learning pathways that scaffold competencies and often integrate industry certification for given occupations. NC CTE describes that internships and cooperative education programs may consider using an apprenticeship program instead as it allows the student to gain valuable work-based learning experience but also state-level certification.  For the NC Tech Team, course progressions and unit plans were designed to include industry-level certifications. Districts and schools exploring the pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship models will need to determine if state certifications apply to courses.

  • Role of Teacher Coordinator(s) for Internships and Apprenticeships: In this case, teachers or program supervisors may partner with the district’s internal technology services and/or outside technology support to build in authentic “problems of practice” and supplemental instruction. According to NC CTE’s guide “The teacher coordinator is a certified educator on staff at the student’s school who regularly communicates with the student to check on progress and helps emphasize the connections between what is learned in the classroom with what is learned at the work site.”

Cooperative Education: Under the cooperative education model paid employment is combined with classroom instruction. Planning and supervision responsibilities are jointly held by teachers and the employer. School credit is received for both on-site job training and classroom courses. This method of instruction provides opportunities for students pursuing career and technical courses to extend their employment preparation beyond the classroom. Because the help desk is a workplace within the school or district, those interested in building this model will want to explore opportunities for hiring students as employees of the district.

  • Role of Teacher Coordinator(s): Similar to internships, teachers might partner with technology services personnel or external technology support services to supervise students in courses and on the job. Resources an

Student Clubs: Another route for building a student Tech Team is through student clubs. Student clubs can offer extracurricular work-based learning experiences where students who are passionate about technology can voluntarily join and contribute to a team. Clubs are an opportune way to recruit students who already hold interest in technology and then shift to a more comprehensive work-based learning environment by building out courses in subsequent semesters.

Unit Plans for Student Clubs

Students in a club setting are likely to have far less time to explore and develop skills relevant to the Help Desk program, but that does not mean that they cannot be successful contributors to a school or district’s overall support ecosystem. Students in these programs may come with varied levels of technical skill, unlike Interns that often have to complete an application and go through an interview to demonstrate some level of proficiency prior to being selected. Because time may be limited for club sponsors to meet with students, they may benefit from some targeted resources and suggested learning ideas found in the Curriculum.

In addition to the units identified under Internships that provide resources and ideas to develop  inter- and intrapersonal skills, club sponsors may also want to focus on some key technical skills that students can develop during club time. Career exploration may also be a topic of interest for students participating in a club. Club sponsors may want to consider the following units.

Unit Outcomes CompTIA Domain Objectives
Unit 1.2: Getting to Know Computing Devices Teams create an annotated user guide or help desk packet that they can use later in their work as a member of the Help Desk. 1.3 Illustrate the basics of computing and processing
2.6 Compare and contrast common computing devices and their purposes
Unit 1.3: Components of an Operating System Students will learn key OS commands and common problems devices face related to their OS, and some potential solutions that students can test 3.1 Explain the purpose of operating systems
3.2 Compare and contrast components of an operating system
Unit 1.4: Using a Troubleshooting Model Students will work in Teams to troubleshoot issues using the CompTIA troubleshooting model. 1.6 Explain the troubleshooting methodology.
Unit 4.2: Understanding Basic Networking and the Internet Students will install, configure and secure a basic wireless network and create documentation for the Help Desk knowledge base. 2.7 Explain basic networking concepts.
2.4 Compare and contrast common Internet service types.
2.8 Given a scenario, install, configure and secure a basic wireless network.
Unit 6.2: Career Exploration Students create a digital product about at least one potential IT career or a group of related careers.
  • Role of Teachers/Club Advisors: Staff overseeing a student club implementation will want to consider offering an elective for club members to better integrate work-based learning and exploration for the club members. In addition, they may want to consider having students join their first professional association as part of membership. The Technology Student Association offers extensive resources, conferences and competitions, and student-led events, that would nicely structure and supplement the implementation of a student technology club or any of the work-based learning models presented above.
  • What is the existing tech support staff/device ratio?
  • What is the desired student support/device ratio?
  • How might external technology support (consultants, software support, etc.) be integrated in student learning and support?

Work closely with your district’s Technology Services department/personnel to identify the existing ratios of support personnel to devices. Note that this is often an ever-changing number. Understanding the demand for tech team members will help identify how you structure the program and integrate with existing support personnel.

Teacher Recruitment

The tech team teacher or coordinator role is outlined  for each of the work-based learning environments. This will provide general guidance for the level of staffing you will need based on your service model, budget, and existing technology services staff. Educators who lead help desks often have a background in educational technology and/or STEM fields. Depending on integration with the school or district’s existing technology services staff, having such a background it is not necessarily a requirement.

Student Recruitment

More established programs recommend thinking broadly about the students who can contribute to the help desk.  Wong, Aher, and Scheffer (2019) emphasize the importance of looking beyond “techie” strengths for the Help Desk and the scope of the student learning goals will define how students with diverse abilities can contribute. The intern program they describe includes student contributions to a tech blog, implementation of a “TEDxYouth” conference at their school, marketing, video-based tutorials, graphic design, and building a presence in social media. They look for a range of student strengths when recruiting, including:

  • IT, computer programing, problem solving, and critical thinking
  • Artistic students for makerspace design and multimedia projects, 3D printing, etc.
  • Writers for their student run technology blog, tech team contributions to the student newspaper
  • Marketing, business, and entrepreneurial competencies: building a help desk presence on social media, interpersonal and customer service skills, co-design of Help Desk mission, vision, values
  • Drama, Speech and Media students: Public speaking skills for promoting the help desk at school-based and professional conferences; videographer skills for capturing tutorials and promotional footage, leading classroom demos for fellow students, etc.

Lessons Learned