BTDT Tech Advice for the First-Year Panther | Information Technology | University of Pittsburgh

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BTDT Tech Advice for the First-Year Panther

Starting at Pitt is so exciting. I remember my first time walking past the Panther by William Pitt Union and rubbing his nose for luck. Figuring out the route to all my classes. Peeking into the Nationality Rooms and finally choosing a favorite (the Austrian Room).

As a recent graduate, I wish I could experience it all again! That said, there are a few things I wish I’d known before I set foot on campus. Here are the tech tips I want to impart to the Class of 2027, so you can be the most prepared Panther out there!

Get Connected

Two Wi-Fi Networks: MyResNet and PittNet

This one threw me at first. Pitt has two Wi-Fi networks on campus. MyResNet is only in the residence halls, while PittNet is everywhere else (e.g., academic and administrative buildings). Separate Wi-Fi networks let you study and do homework (or stream and game) without your connection getting bogged down by campus activity. The trick is knowing how to connect to each one.

  • For MyResNet, you just need to register your devices with their MAC address and they’ll connect automatically. (Do this before you arrive to alleviate move-in stress).
  • To connect to PittNet Wi-Fi, you just need to select the Wireless-PittNet network on your device and log in with your Pitt credentials. (Have your device remember this network for the future.)

Go to the Labs, and Have It Come to You

I loved the Student Computing Labs. They are quiet places to get work done without lugging your laptop around, or to surf or check Pitt email (they send us tons!) when you have an hour to kill. Plus, the machines are pretty beefy, especially compared to my now-4-year-old laptop. But who wants to go to a lab in bad weather, late at night, or when you’re off-campus? That’s what the Virtual Student Computing Lab is for. It lets you remotely connect to the lab machines from anywhere. Learn to love and use them both!

Figure Out How to Use Stuff

Know How and Where You’re Working in Microsoft 365

I thought I knew what I was doing, but it took me a hot minute to master Microsoft 365 at Pitt. I’d work on something, and then … poof — it was gone! Turns out I was creating different versions of the file, because I didn’t always understand where I was working and where I was saving.

  • Web App vs Desktop App: The desktop app is saved on your computer, and you connect by clicking the icon in your taskbar. The web app runs in your browser, and you log in through myPitt or from the Microsoft 365 site. The apps are similar, but not identical. Download the desktop apps if your hard drive has room, so you can work offline if need be. (Log into Microsoft 365 with your Pitt credentials and click “Install apps” in the top right. corner)
  • Cloud vs Local Storage: The web and desktop apps can both save files locally (on your device) or in the cloud (in OneDrive). Here’s the thing: you are going to have a hell of a time finding your files if you don’t save them all in the cloud, especially if you use different devices (e.g., your laptop and a computer lab device). Save all your document to OneDrive to avoid the confusion!

Download Adobe Creative Cloud NOW

One of my favorite things as a Pitt student was using Adobe Creative Cloud for free! I found myself using it in and out of class for a ton of things. My one mistake was downloading it the day I needed to use it to make a club flyer. Turns out it takes a couple days for the license to activate. Oops. Make sure you download it now, so it’s ready to go when you need it. Some of my favorite apps were InDesign, Premiere Pro, and Illustrator. Express is a great tool for getting started and working quickly.

Use LinkedIn Learning

We’re lucky to have free access to LinkedIn Learning, but most students don’t start using it until they are almost ready to graduate and are trying to land a job. Not me! I used the webinars to help me in my academic classes (when I needed to brush up on something I’d forgotten or strengthen my understanding of a new concept), while courses like Leadership Foundations helped me to become a better leader in my extracurricular activities. And it all looks great on my LinkedIn profile.

Get Organized

Use OneDrive

Use your OneDrive account for all academic and extracurricular files, and Google only for personal files, like backing up your personal photos. Why? Because OneDrive has way more storage than Google Drive for free (5 TB vs. 15 GB). I had every file I ever used or created at Pitt saved in OneDrive and still had tons of space after four years. Plus, the Microsoft apps and the lab computers default to saving in OneDrive. So just keep everything in one place to stay organized.

Take Notes in OneNote

During your academic path, you will find that many classes build upon each other, and you’ll want to easily access and search older notes to build your understanding. Digital notetaking makes that much easier, especially if use it from your first semester. Create a OneNote notebook for each semester, with sections for each course and pages for each class session. You can add links, images, videos, and drawings. (You can even use a stylus to hand-write notes and figures!)

Put Everything in Outlook Calendar

Managing your time as a new college student can be intimidating, but it’s completely doable! Especially if you use Outlook Calendar to its full extent. Add your classes, meetings, work, and social plans into the calendar so you never accidentally miss anything — especially with notifications on! A bonus of using the Calendar is that others at Pitt can easily see when you are and aren’t available. So you can skip all the emailing and just use Scheduling Assistant to find a good time.

Make Teamwork Easy

Meet in Pitt IT Computing Lab Team Rooms

Group projects don’t go away in college; they actually get more intense. They’re so much easier when you can get together in a private room designed for collaboration. Pitt IT offers team workspaces where you can display files on a large central monitor and draw on whiteboards that line the room. Don’t wander Hillman Library trying to find a table for your whole group, just to stare at a tiny laptop screen. You can do better — reserve these rooms online at

Utilize Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams makes it easy to stay on top of group projects and club activities. You can keep files in one location, schedule meetings, have live video chats, send each other IMs, and work on files simultaneously. And yet … I used Google Docs/Sheets/Slides for a solid 3 years, because that was what we all knew. We used WhatsApp to chat. And Zoom to meet. When I started working for Pitt IT, my boss coordinated everything in Teams. Facepalm! It really is easier once you get the hang of it.

Relax – Pitt IT Will Help

It is inevitable that you will run into some tech issue, which is why the 24/7 Pitt IT Help Desk was my saving grace. Whenever I found myself with a tech problem, no matter how big or small, the Help Desk came to the rescue! I especially appreciated the many ways of communicating with them. You can just call or chat for live help, or send an email if the issue is not quite so immediate.

If you’re on campus and need help that may be easier in person (like removing viruses, loading software, or trouble-shooting a major problem), you can pop into one of the Drop-In Support locations. My new student hack is to go to Drop-In Support during Welcome Week and ask them to set up your devices for you. They’ll download all the apps you need and configure them for Pitt. So much easier!

See You Soon!

Although my time as a Pitt student has ended, I hope these tips can help you hit the ground running. I feel incredibly lucky to have received my education from Pitt and to be so supported by all these tech resources that made it possible for me to accomplish my goals in and out of the classroom. I will always be a proud Panther. And with that I say … Hail to Pitt and welcome Class of 2027!

-- Vivian Zauhar, Pitt IT Student blogger, Class of 2023