As a former IT major (who later changed their major to data science), I have had the opportunity to help many friends and friends of friends with their technology issues over the years and teach them tech skills for college. Whenever I help them, I like to show them exactly what I am doing so that way they can learn something new, and hopefully solve the problem on their own next time. I have put together this list of ten information technology/tech troubleshooting skills every college student needs, based on tasks I have helped other students with.
Is the Wi-Fi not working? Make sure you know how to connect and disconnect from Wi-Fi networks, and what login information each network requires. It also helps to know how to check for outages and learn which networks work best in which buildings- for example, one of the Wi-Fi networks is notoriously slow in a certain area of campus, so I switch to a different one when in that building. I have a full post about college Wi-Fi information linked below.
- Ten Facts About College Campus Wi-Fi
- My Favorite Web Browser Extensions For Virtual Learning
- Blindness Canes and Building Identification: Navigating College Campuses
Creating documents and presentations
As more and more colleges and classes switch over to paperless learning, students will find themselves needing to know how to create text documents, presentations, format notes, and so much more. I came into college with a Microsoft Office Specialist Master certification and I was always very popular whenever fellow classmates had to put together great looking presentations or organize notes. Spend some time learning Microsoft applications or whatever your college uses, and you won’t panic when it comes time to type out a paper or format a presentation.
- Microsoft Office Specialist Certification and Low Vision
- How To Use Microsoft Office Sway With Assistive Technology
- How I Use Microsoft OneNote With Low Vision
- How To Make Word Documents Accessible
- How To Make PowerPoint Presentations Accessible
Performing a manual reset
“Hello, IT. Have you tried turning it off and on again?” – The IT Crowd
While it may seem frustrating to hear someone ask that, a lot of temporary problems really can be solved by turning a device off and on again. If the device isn’t cooperating, here are my tips for performing a manual reset, or force restarting the device.
iOS (iPad, iPhone, etc)
Hold down the power button and center button until the screen goes black, then turn the device back on again. This works for any Apple product.
Hold down the power button and either the volume down key or center button, depending on your specific device. In case you accidentally boot your phone into safe mode, turn it off using the power key and then turn it on as normal.
Holding down the power button works most of the time, but you can also restart by doing the ctrl-alt-delete keyboard shortcut and powering the device off that way. If prompted, do not start in safe mode and instead start Windows normally.
- How To Make iPad Accessible for Low Vision
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For Android Phones
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For Windows 10
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For MacBooks
- Why I Use Accessibility Support Phone Numbers
How to clear cookies and other data
I was having a conversation with someone about how slow their computer was, and I found out that they had never cleared their cookies, temporary files, or emptied the recycle bin on their computer. You can clear cookies by pressing ctrl-h on the keyboard while in a web browser and follow prompts to clear cookies and cached data- though you will have to log in to websites again. I also recommend emptying the recycling bin at least once a month and running the cleanup wizard on the computer. For phones, clearing app data and cached files in settings can do wonders for improving storage and speed.
Device drivers are pieces of software that are used to interact with hardware. Installing them is very easy to do and can help fix a lot of issues. For example, if your mouse stops working, run a web search for your device and go to the manufacturer’s website to download and install the drivers for free. Make sure to install drivers for the correct device- it never hurts to check for a model number or other helpful identifying information. Your college may also have specific drivers for university hardware that students can download from the information technology services website.
- Mouse Pointers and Low Vision
- Choosing A Computer Mouse With Low Vision
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Keyboards
- Questions To Ask When Choosing A Desktop Computer For College
- Questions To Ask When Choosing A Laptop For College
Printing a document
Each computer lab and library may have different methods for printing documents. If I have to print something, I prefer to use wireless printers and download drivers from the university library website. I also often see people connecting a USB drive into a computer or directly into a printer to print documents, but I find the text on these displays too small to see and prefer to use my own technology. Students in special programs may be able to use printers in select locations for free. I decided it was more economical to buy my own printer.
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Printers
- College Libraries and Low Vision
- Ten “Weird” Things I Brought to College
Spotting viruses and scams
I got an email a while ago about how I could lose my financial aid if I didn’t wire money to a specific person. I noticed how bizarre this email sounded and forwarded it to the information technology services department, where they confirmed to me what I already knew- it was spam and I should not interact with it, and if I did, they would have to close my web account that is my key to everything. Learn how to spot viruses and scam emails by checking the sender, contact information, and not opening any attachments. If it seems too good or too weird to be true, it probably is.
- How To Recognize Phishing Attempts With Vision Impairment
- Be Internet Awesome With Visual Impairment: Safer Internet Day 2020
- How I Organize Emails In College
Creating secure passwords
It’s easy to get frustrated with creating passwords and choose to create a simple one that can easily be guessed, and just use it for everything. Likewise, sometimes it may seem that passwords have so many different requirements, that it would be easier to just have a cat walk across the keyboard and have it choose your new password. However, knowing how to create secure and easy to remember passwords is an important skill, and it’s one that I highly recommend learning before a security issue causes users to lose valuable information. This is also important for creating accounts on other school related websites such as the course management website or software for classes.
- How To Create Secure And Easy To Remember Passwords
- 9 Ways To Customize Blackboard For Students
- How I Use Repl.it IDE With Low Vision
Backing up devices
One time, I bought a new phone and for some reason, decided not to install a backup system on it. Of course, this phone ended up having an unfortunate accident with a music stand and my bass clarinet, so it ended up being completely destroyed and my data was gone forever. Learning from that experience, I made a habit of backing up my iPad weekly so that when it suffered global irreversible software damage, I was able to transfer all of my data to my new iPad with ease.
Backing up your data is extremely important and can be done in a variety of ways. My phone backs up to my Google account as well as OneDrive, and I back up my iPad to both iCloud and OneDrive as well. My computer has multiple backup methods including OneDrive and external USB tools, among others.
- How I Back Up My iPad
- Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Tablets
- How I Organize Digital Files For My Classes
- How I Arrange My iPad Homescreen
- How To Transfer Information To A New Android Phone
Asking for help
If nothing else is working or you are too nervous to troubleshoot something yourself, make note of departments and people that can help you, and what they can do to help you. My college has a tech support hotline run by students and for students that can help with connecting devices and setting up new ones. There’s also another information technology number for faculty, staff, and college-owned devices. I also highly recommend befriending students studying information technology, computer science, computer engineering, and other technology-related majors that can help with technical issues too.
- Blindness Canes and Accessibility Issues: Navigating College Campuses
- Ways To Get Accessibility Support For Virtual Learning
- Why I Use Accessibility Support Phone Numbers
- Using The Microsoft Disability Answer Desk With Be My Eyes
Other information technology skills that can benefit college students
- How to register wireless devices such as smart speakers or game consoles on the school’s wireless network- this involves finding the MAC address of the device and registering it online
- Performing a network reset on mobile devices- this varies by device, but is typically found in the Settings menu and is different from erasing all data
- How to access internal campus websites and resources, such as library software