Mar 052006
Authors: Marissa HuttonGavel

The help desk is open during lab hours from:

Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday noon to 5 p.m.

Sunday noon to 10:30 p.m.

The Computer Training and Support Services (CTSS) lab and help desk offers free services for CSU students, faculty and staff. And with midterm exams and projects approaching this week, they could prove a valuable resource.

In its 21st year, the CTSS lab has evolved into a multi-service computer lab with 72 computers, 21 with specialized software. It also contains two classrooms for free software and Internet training workshops.

"It's one of those hidden treasures," CTSS Associate Director Melody Brake said.

This treasure is also self-supported, unlike other labs on campus supported by student fees. CTSS, a division of Academic Computing and Networking Services (ACNS), makes money off of repairs and work done in the ACNS Computer Repair Center in the basement of the Weber Building.

"It's cost recovery," Brake said. "We don't make money. We make enough to cover our costs."

All of the departments on campus pitched in to cover software expenses for CSU computer labs campus-wide, explained Diane Noren , IT professional and student staff supervisor. The college labs are supplemented with specialized software pertaining to the individual majors within each college.

"The IT community has picked up the cost of software for students," Noren said. "Our department's goal is to support university standards."

According to the ACNS Web site, these standards are set by the university in order for a "more effective use of computers through improved communication and information sharing among departments, labs, and central administration."

Much of the standard software available in the college labs is also on the computers in the CTSS lab for easy access in one location. This includes programs such as Macromedia Dreamweaver and the statistical program, MiniTAB. A complete list of available standard software can be viewed on the CTSS Web site,

Along with a variety of software, Noren also noted that the lab houses one of the largest flat bed scanners on campus, as well as a color plotter that can print posters up to 10 feet wide.

One of the most utilized services provided within the lab is the CTSS Computing Help Desk. With a staff of 12 students and four Information Technology (IT) professionals, the help desk provides assistance by email, over the phone and on a first come first served basis.

The student staff is trained in costumer service and specialized in areas ranging from graphic and Web design to database entry and basic troubleshooting. They are also well versed in solutions for eID and WebCT questions.

"I've done tech support for years," said Dan Hoyer , sophomore biomedical engineering major and staff member.

While most are employed at an hourly rate, Noren says she has hired technology majors and less experienced non-majors for internships and special projects for class credit.

"I am willing to train those who're willing to learn and I look for a variety of skills when hiring," she said. "But they need to be somewhat fluent in the applications we use."

The student staff has what it takes to work together to fix computers and deal with the stress that goes along with it. Hoyer equates their jobs at the help desk to being repairmen.

"We're the mechanics of the computer world," he said, noting that the job is "ultra-stressful, but the staff is great."

Although most services are free, there are some charges for repairs. The help desk can run antivirus and spyware programs, but due to lack of insurance they are not allowed to do some of the more detailed work.

Instead, they send people with machines that have more complex problems downstairs to the ACNS repair center where they can not only sign a guarantee of service, but also liability so that if information is lost in the process the repair center is not responsible. ACNS charges $75 an hour to work on computers, but has a maximum time charge of $150.

"We can do for $100 what other places do for $350," Noren said

Along with their repair services, CTSS and ACNS constantly update to accommodate modern technology. One such upgrade is the mobile communications program to be started over the summer.

The program will run out of the Software Cellar, another affiliate of ACNS located in the Lory Student Center. Through this program with Sprint, students and faculty will be able to use mobile devices with Internet capabilities to check and post grades, get class information and correspond with each other.

"There's a lot of new, exciting technology to help you learn coming down the pipe," Noren said, "We do it as a service for the CSU community."

Marissa Hutton-Gavel can be reached at


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