Community Update - March 27, 2020

March 27, 2020

It’s the second week of remote teaching, learning, and work at UBC as the majority of our faculty and staff continue to operate off-campus as part of UBC’s response to COVID-19. This past week continues to be busy for our IT staff ensuring faculty were equipped to deliver online teaching and that our workforce had the necessities to resume work off campus.

To move an institution of UBC’s size and complexity a remote work environment largely in the course of a weekend has been an incredible feat of dedication and collaboration across the entire community.

For IT, it has required long hours for many of our IT managers and their teams over a period of several weeks. We have encountered new and existing challenges, but have overcome them with persistence and creativity.

To date, we have had more than 4,000 Zoom accounts activated as an additional tool for delivering courses to large groups, and as an alternative option for large video conferencing gatherings. As of yesterday, we had more than 4,000 individuals connecting to our Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access their UBC work files and logging in to UBC systems and networks for day-to-day work. And our IT Service Centre continues to experience high volume, with more than 1,100 tickets and 1,000 phone calls answered over the past week.

With a large majority of our faculty and staff now off-campus, we all need to be more aware of UBC’s cybersecurity precautions. We know that universities are being targeted and are at greater risk with our systems being accessed at a high frequency off-campus. I urge everyone to visit thePrivacy Matters websitefor more information and resources to keep UBC safe.

This week, we have turned our attention and assistance to helpingresearch teams move to remote workarrangements as research activities are curtailed on campus. OurAdvanced Research Computing(ARC) staff remain committed to helping researchers during this transition, and providing specialized IT services as needed.

For the CIO portfolio, we continue to take guidance from UBC, the Provincial Health Officer, and the BC Provincial Government in the effort to suppress the spread of Covid-19. As of this week, our IT Service Centre will no longer be onsite, and will work remotely responding to requests primarily through web-based tickets while we pilot a phone system that can be accessed off-campus. Desktop Services staff is winding down on-campus work, receiving and configuring the remaining equipment needed to be distributed to those waiting for laptops to take home. This means that staff under the Office of the CIO and UBC IT are almost completely remote. For the very small number of our staff who will remain onsite, their work in holding the fort and supporting UBC is greatly appreciated. While these are challenging conditions, we will do our best to maintain service levels to the community.

Should you need any IT assistance, please continue to reach out to ourIT Service Centre.

Lastly, it should remind all of us of the importance of our community and our work in supporting it when we hear how UBC researchers are collectively working to find ways to fight the outbreak. Earlier this week, five research teams in the Faculty of Medicine received $2.3M in federal funding for research to tackle COVID-19. And, in the same faculty, there are six students who created the BC COVID-19 Medical Student Response Team to provide personal assistance to families of medical workers.

Jennifer Burns
Associate Vice-President, Information Technology & CIO