Community Update - August 31, 2020

August 31, 2020

August marks the sixth month since UBC transitioned to remote teaching, learning, and working in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. September preparedness this year has taken on a very different pace within the OCIO and UBC IT as a result of converging priorities and supporting the remote experience in addition to the usual start of term activities.

September Preparedness
In my July update, I noted the ways in which we’ve been supporting students and faculty through the implementation of Microsoft Teams and OneDrive, providing remote access to application software and computer lab resources, providing discounted vendor packages for students, and improving Internet connectivity for international students.

We know that faculties have been inundated with a number of challenges for the start of September. I want to assure the academic community that we are listening, responding, and prioritizing our IT services to improve our remote environment. I am especially grateful to our colleagues in CTLT and CTL for bringing forward teaching and learning concerns that can be improved with technology support.

UBC’s community of Zoom users (more than 12,400) continue to be notified of enhanced security and functionality upgrades. Since UBC’s Zoom instance migrated to Canadian cloud data centres, the “Record to Cloud” function has been enabled, with options to record meetings in different recording layouts including active speaker, gallery view and shared screen modes will remain unchanged. The Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) integration between Zoom and Canvas is also now in place. The teaching and learning community had been looking for this functionality since the adoption of Zoom as this helps the teaching community with scheduling for the course sessions directly through Canvas. And, as of August 31st, UBC requires all Zoom meetings to have a passcode enabled for increased security. This is a pre-emptive step to Zoom implementing a system-wide change on September 27th where the default will be automatically enabling a waiting room for any meetings that do not have a passcode.   

Our remote workplace has also meant that we have had to upgrade and increase network bandwidth to accommodate for more than 17,000 faculty and staff accessing their day to day work from their home offices. Some of these upgrades have included:

  • Doubling the UBC border commodity Internet bandwidth doubling from 10Gig to 20Gig
  • Monitoring the increased network traffic due to remote classes, and improving our troubleshooting of UBC’s data network to better identify network security-related issues
  • Piloting a new application of our wireless analytics for a Proof of Concept of a “UBC Building COVID-19 Occupancy” service
  • Renewed AV systems in 21 general teaching spaces, and 12 Faculty of Medicine rooms across the province, and
  • Increasing wireless capacity in a number of student residences

Workday Preparedness
In two months, the university will see the culmination of three years’ planning with the launch of Workday as a replacement for our HR and Finance systems. There are 220 IRP trainers ready to support Workday training to the UBC community, and a number of co-op students have been hired as Learning Rovers to provide additional support during and after go-live. For specialized HR and Finance roles, the train-the-trainer approach has helped support department specific requirements.

I encourage all faculty, staff, and student employees to take the guided Workday training or to register for any of the upcoming webinars or community call-ins promoted on the IRP website to prepare for the Nov. 2 launch date.

We are also completing the recruitment of the Integrated Service Centre (ISC) team, a newly formed unit that will be the point of contact for Workday related issues, queries, and requests. The new support model is unique to UBC, integrating IT, HR, and Finance with a common goal of enhancing community support and continuously improving Workday.

Workforce Preparedness
IT staff have been exceptionally busy since March to support UBC’s remote classrooms and home offices, and to meet additional demands that need to be addressed the longer we remain off physically off-campus. We know that many in our workforce are feeling mentally exhausted and depleted, and we have continued to designate “email and meeting free” days through the next two months.

Last week, UBC launched an internal Workplace Preferences Survey, asking faculty and staff to weigh in on the future of the workplace at UBC. For IT, the survey results build on previous staff feedback we received in late April, just 6 weeks into transitioning to remote work for the majority of our workforce. Based on what I hear at our monthly all-staff meetings, I know that top of mind for our staff is resumption of work plans, and keeping the know about institutional decisions should we need to pivot this fall to address any urgent responses to COVID-19. The Survey closes in early September, and our results will be discussed further at our management meetings later in the month.

And on that note of self-care, I will end August with some time off before the start of the Winter Term. I look forward to joining everyone online on the first day of classes.

Jennifer Burns
Associate Vice-President, Information Technology & CIO