Community Update - March 17, 2020

Monday marked the first day of UBC transitioning to remote online classes for more than 54,800 students and 6,000+ faculty at our campus as part of the institution’s response to containing COVID-19. We joined Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria in supporting teaching and learning for our students while we continue to pay heed to the advice of provincial health authorities and the federal government. Today (Tuesday) will mark the start of a 3 week pilot of remote work for many of our faculty and staff, following the UBC Broadcast Email encouraging physical distancing and to work from home if possible.

I would like to share with you the work being done,whichwill continue by staff in UBC IT to support the community during our transition to online activity.

Over the past 2 weeks, UBC IT has been preparing for variousscenarios. To address critical services needed by students, faculty, staff and visitors, we conducted a comprehensive overview and assessment to determine staffing and equipment requirements. A continuity plan for critical services was developed in consultation with IT Managers and faculty IT Directors, and implemented once the UBC decisions were made. To address the anticipated increase of network activity when working remotely, we expanded our network capacity and provisioned greatervirtual private network connections to log-in to UBC’s administrative systems. We also purchased an enterprise license for Zoom Video Conferencing, an additional virtual conference and collaboration tool available to faculty and staff to accommodate larger class sizes moving online and as an additionto Skype for Business, with more than 600 accounts created since yesterday.

Working remotely may also be new for some staff. We have created an online guide to working off-campus with essential information on equipment needs, instructions on how to access UBC files remotely, and reference to the host of IT services to create a safe, productive, and optimal work environment. We have expedited orders on additional laptops so we can meet the needs of remote work arrangements.

While the recent decisions made by UBC will mean less faculty and staff are physically on-site, the campus remains open and university operations continue. The UBC IT family has more than 500 management and professional staff – about 10% are remaining physically on-site to support the community while the rest are responding remotely. Senior leaders within IT will maintain a presence onsite as long as we have staff present.

Even with the most detailed plans, we know that there will be challenges. The demands for support from our IT Service Centre, Desktop Services team, and Audio-Visual Help Desk team are high. We need to be extra vigilant about information security and privacy, and ensure that security controls are in place when working off-campus. Staff may be deployed from one area to another where needed. And, the critical work of the Integrated Renewal Program must be preserved for the go-live target set for this fall.

The collaboration between staff across UBC to work together to support our community, and the long hours spent preparing the delivery of online courses and supporting staff remotely has been tremendous. It’s also a time to support one another personally. To recognize the shared challenges we face, the concerns we have for family and friends, and support our broader community by following the guidance of our health authorities and UBC about how to take care of ourselves. Stay safe, and please look after each other.

Thank you for your ongoing support and patience as we navigate these unprecedented times.

Jennifer Burns
Associate Vice-President, Information Technology & CIO