Thank you to the 30 faculty and staff who completed the IT services annual survey. The response rate of 25% is slightly higher than expected for surveys solicited electronically. The IT department reviewed the results of this survey on February 19 and we will review our individual satisfaction survey results as part of our personal goal-setting process. The graph below depicts the results, which are also available in an interactive online format.
The three services with the least satisfaction are Office 365, ExpressVPN and home internet when not using a VPN. We know that Office 365 is an adjustment for many teachers used to Google Apps, and it is a more complicated system to use. It is also the only collaboration suite which our students can access in China, making it the default choice for all international schools on the mainland.
We see user education as the best way to improve satisfaction with Office 365; the upcoming March 16 Saturday Certificate Session is the first effort and if it is successful we plan to replicate the model. We’re also open to offering on-demand training for both office staff and teachers. The complexity of the system means that training will be most effective when it happens directly before or after the user needs the skills, hence our desire to give this training on demand rather than scheduled throughout the year.
As ExpressVPN and home internet are offered by third-party providers, we have limited control over them. There is not an alternative ISP who offers home DSL service, and since foreign VPNs are not authorized by the Chinese government, ISPs and the government take active steps to block services like ExpressVPN. We noticed that satisfaction is much higher for the school’s Cisco AnyConnect VPN service, which connects users directly to campus.
We encourage users to use Cisco AnyConnect rather than ExpressVPN since the former connects users to campus and then to our approved, commercial VPN provider. We are also investigating whether we can install routers in teachers’ apartments that would provide access to the campus network and approved VPN – no need to run a separate program to connect – at which point we would begin to phase out ExpressVPN. We plan to phase out ExpressVPN faster for new hire teachers once this router is available.
We’re happy that a near-super majority of users are very satisfied with their school-issued laptops (replaced every four years or sooner), the equipment available for check-out and the service we provide via walk-ins and through our firstname.lastname@example.org address. We will continue to issue Mac laptops – the MacBook Air, for 2019-10 – to faculty and TAs (office staff are currently on a mix of Windows and Mac devices and we plan to maintain this for the time being). We are investigating how to install phones in each classroom to make it even easier to get in touch with us in urgent cases; this may happen in phases over 2-3 years.
We noticed that only 27% of users are very satisfied with our school WiFi network, and only 38% of users are very satisfied with our classroom A/V situation. By August 2019 we will have completed an upgrade of the WiFi access points that we hope will make the signal more reliable, especially when moving between buildings (AQ2 remains on an older system due to the need to coordinate with ULC and Yingdong). We hope this improves your satisfaction.
We plan to continue our rollout of AppleTV boxes to enable wireless projection in classrooms; around 10 units will be installed in classrooms over the summer of 2019. We also installed mounted speakers in 2018 to improve audio quality. We suspect that it would take brand-new projectors in each classroom to further improve satisfaction; projectors in general can seem dim in brightly-lit classrooms, and their image quality degrades over time. LED TVs are an alternative: they turn on instantly and are much brighter than projectors. We piloted several models in classrooms and feedback was that some felt 65” models are too small. The tradeoff, then, is between brightness and image size. For the future, we plan to continue replacing 20% of our projectors every year, and installing new bulbs on existing units if required.
Finally, only 30-34% of respondents were very satisfied with our communications platforms: the staff portal, the daily bulletin, and the NCPA WeChat group. One concern we’re aware of is that students don’t read the daily bulletin. This year, study hall implemented a routine to check the daily bulletin every night. We’ve recently installed digital signage TVs near the stairwells that show the daily bulletin headlines to continue increasing the bulletin’s exposure, and the daily bulletin will remain the official way of making whole-school announcements for the foreseeable future. We do plan to add the announcements to students’ PowerSchool portal, so they will see it in PowerSchool, on the digital signage TVs, and via e-mail. We also want to make the staff portal mobile-friendly and work with the orientation coordinators to add content about life in China to the staff portal or the upcoming Social @ NCPA website created by the social committee. This would help our faculty and staff find answers to frequently-asked questions that come up in the WeChat group.
Finally, a few responses to the anonymous comments since we’re unable to reach out to you directly:
For the person paying for their own ExpressVPN connection, foreign staff on full-time teaching contracts are eligible for an ExpressVPN account per household. If you’ve been paying for your own and you fall into the aforementioned category, please stop by the helpdesk!
For the person wanting a PDF guide to Powerteacher Pro, this has been available in the Staff Portal’s Tech Knowledgebase and on the EdTech blog since October. Updates are published as daily bulletin posts and on the WeChat group, so please make sure you check those! In the future, we plan to add a subscription option so that you can receive these updates in your e-mail box once a week.