Community Update - April 30, 2020

April 30, 2020

This week, UBC announced that remote work would continue indefinitely, at the discretion of the provincial health ministry. This year’s summer session (both terms) will be delivered online and, like many other universities, we are engaged in planning to determine the approach for our fall semester. Regardless of what the eventual model is, we will collaborate with other units across UBC to ensure our faculty and students are set up for success during this peak period.

At an all-staff IT meeting earlier this week, Andrew Szeri, Provost and Vice President Academic for the Vancouver Campus, and Associate Vice President Finance and Operations for the Okanagan, Rob Einarson, acknowledged the contributions and efforts of the IT workforce in transitioning the campus to remote work and teaching. A recent look back at the last 30 days show the impact our work has had for the community we serve:

  • There are more than 7,100 active UBC users on Zoom, with webinars being hosted that accommodate 1,200 participants at a time. More than 58,000 meetings have been conducted online in one month across the UBC community and with external partners.
  • 350 new fully configured and secured computers were deployed to faculty and staff working from home.
  • 100 new laptop computers were deployed to students in need, in partnership with Enrolment Services.
  • The network team Increased infrastructure capacity to accommodate 16,000 concurrent users of the virtual private network (VPN) typically used by staff for secure access to many critical UBC applications.
  • We deployed new measures to improve UBC’s cybersecurity capability in a new remote work environment.
  • We increased the data download capacity for students housed in residence to accommodate their anticipated learning and social needs during the pandemic.
  • Through our support of the BCNET Kaltura service offering, we were able to support the onboarding of new universities and colleges to the BCNET service.
  • And, we moved our IT Service Centre off-site, while handling a 33% increase in the number of support tickets, maintaining a 95% customer satisfaction rating.

All of these activities were accomplished while maintaining regular operations at the usual high standards. While these figures represent UBC IT numbers, I know all of the IT staff across the University, whether they report central or local, are working incredibly hard to support faculty, staff, and students through the transition.

While the uncertainty of the pandemic occupies much of our day-to-day operations, UBC’s focus on critical projects and initiatives has not wavered. The Integrated Renewal Program (IRP) continues to be a priority for the institution with a continued commitment to launch in November. Program teams within the IRP including the Application Ecosystem Program (AEP) and Integrated Service Centre (ISC) as well as the Integrated Enablement Center (IEC) transitioned to remote work arrangements along with the rest of UBC and have remained on track.

Recruitment for the Integrated Service Centre (ISC) begins in May. The ISC is a new unit within the UBC Finance and Operations portfolio focused on sustaining and enhancing Workday and providing user support to UBC students, faculty and staff, in conjunction with IT, HR, Finance, and eventually Enrolment Services. Some of the opportunities available within the ISC include roles in application sustainment, change management, communications, product management, continuous improvement, and service centre management. If you would like to be part of the ISC team, I encourage you to visit the HR Careers website to view the available positions.

On the public research side, you may have seen several media stories earlier this month about a new tool being developed in the fight against COVID-19. Dr. Savvas Nicolaou and Dr. William Parker, radiologists at Vancouver General Hospital and part of UBC’s Department of Radiology, are building an open source, AI model to predict the likelihood of COVID-19 based on CT-scans and chest X-rays. The project is supported by the UBC Community Health and Wellbeing Cloud Innovation Centre (CIC), powered by Amazon Web Services, with additional support provided by the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. You can read more about this exciting collaboration online.

Many of us are working longer hours given the intensity and reactiveness sometimes required by urgent decisions. We are also balancing home and work life, while trying to take care of ourselves and our families, both mentally and physically. At a recent senior leadership meeting, we agreed to model what we believe is necessary for a healthy and productive workforce: supporting our staff in finding balance between home and work by encouraging regular working hours between 8AM and 5PM, ensuring staff have an opportunity to take vacations, and booking meetings in 45 increments to allow for breaks in between, and dedicated blocks of time that are “meeting free”. We recognize however that individual circumstances may require more flexible hours to take care of loved ones.

The past 7 weeks have required a sustained amount of hard work and commitment. We need to find a new balance as we sustain our new normal. To focus on taking care of our families and work, we need to care of ourselves first. I encourage you to reach out if support is needed and to check in with each other. We are all in this together.

Jennifer Burns
Associate Vice-President, Information Technology & CIO