Information Systems and Technology team providing support and solutions for Dawson’s online campus
On March 13, Dawson College had 90 Zoom licenses and most people probably had never heard of the platform for virtual meetings. A month later, the College had 900 Zoom licenses and the platform had become part of the daily lives of students and employees.
“Information Systems and Technology became the critical infrastructure for ensuring online learning and working,” said François Paradis, the Director of IST at Dawson College. “We have worked hard to come up with solutions and provide support to our growing online community.”
Dawson College has about 30 people working on the IST teams in Solutions, Operations and Help Desk.
Solutions for new challenges every week
The Solutions team gave Dawson an advantage in dealing with the variety of challenges that have been emerging virtually every week. “An example of this is integrating our COVID symptom questionnaire with scanning Dawson ID cards. I believe that Dawson is the only CEGEP that has done this. It allows the College Nurses to be notified immediately and helps in keeping logs for contact tracing,” said François.
Derek Gaucher, Coordinator of the Solutions team, said that it took about a week for the team to develop the integrated solution, which is helping reduce risks of infection among the College community. They will be using some of what they learned to create bar codes for exams during the upcoming exams season in December.
Ensuring events still happen online
The team also provided key support to ensure that Welcome Days, Parents Night and Open House can be completely online. Dawson now has a new chat platform that allows College employees to field questions from participants at events. This chat product, Comm 100, is also going to be used by Academic Advising so they can take questions from via chat online.
Online class functionality has been a priority throughout the pandemic. This work continues and the next project is working on integrating Microsoft Teams with the Moodle learning management system. “Teams with Moodle enhances the class experience and offers teachers a videoconferencing alternative to Zoom,” Derek said.
Despite all the challenges and the ever-changing situation, things have been running smoothly. “My wife asks me, ‘anything exciting happen today at the College?’ and I am thankful I rarely have anything to report. IST strives for reliability and stability in all its operations,” said Derek.
Dawson’s development team has allowed the College to react faster to situations and implement automated solutions. Once things are running, it is the job of the Operations team, including Help Desk, to provide support.
Supporting more people on campus and at home
One of the big changes for the Operations team has been to also provide support to students. “The Help Desk is the face of IST for employees and students,” said Greg Bagshaw, Coordinator of IT Operations. “We now support their technology needs at the College and at home.”
This team has loaned out about 200 laptops for this semester. “We purchased some second-hand laptops and also consolidated the laptops that were used in the College to be able to equip students and employees who needed hardware,” Greg said. “The laptops are perfect because they have an integrated microphone and web cam.”
When the College was offering teachers the possibility to have some in-person classes, the Operations team worked to equip 10 classrooms as high flex classrooms and put together 10 portable carts for the option of making other classrooms, such as labs, available for these hybrid learning set-up’s with some students in class and most at home. This is not possible at this time because of the COVID red-zone restrictions, but the College is ready for when things change again.
Connecting students to powerful College computers for course work
One of the big projects of the Operations team was to connect 1,100 students in the technical arts programs and some of the hands-on Arts, Literature and Communication profiles to the Mac operating systems at the College. These computers are powerful and very expensive and it would not be possible to equip students with these computers at home.
“Now the students can connect to these computers on campus to do their course work no matter what device they are on at home,” Greg said. They also connected 350 students in technology programs to the computer workstations in their labs.
The team has been working very hard and “learning at 100 kilometres an hour,” said Greg. The Help Desk had an unprecedented volume of calls at the beginning of this semester. The calls are still steady, but have settled down and students and employees seem to have what they need.
Over 100,000 help calls answered!
Over the past week, Help Desk Manager Mike O’Hara and his team marked a major milestone: ticket 100,000! “With our built-in capacity and dedicated problem-solvers, our IST team will keep adapting to find solutions and provide support,” said François.
Thank you notes from students and employees
Susan Ehret, administrative assistant in IST, has received many little notes of gratitude from the Dawson community:
“Thanks for your awesome support throughout this daunting semester. We literally couldn’t have done it without you all.” (Charles Le Guen, Coordinator and Chair of 3D Animation and Computer Generated Imagery)
“I wanted to say a huge, huge thank you to you and your team! What a wonderful job you all have done. I feel ever so fortunate to have people like you and many more at this college. … I often feel that I can work because of people like you!” (Dipti Gupta, Coordinator, Cinema | Communications)
“Everything is perfect. Thank you so much. It is going to make such a difference.” (Note received from a student)
“Thank you to the wonderful people who are working so hard and doing an amazing job!” (Note received from a student)
“Everything that you all have done has always been seen, and if not seen, then felt. There are not enough words of gratitude that can be said when it comes to all that you do for us students. You allow us to grow and flourish. Please know that, at times, we may unintentionally take you for granted, but that does not mean that we are not constantly aware of all that you do for us.” (Note received from a student)
“I received the laptop and successfully logged in. I really appreciate you and your team’s support and hard work. I feel like I could successfully finish this semester with your support now!” (Note received from a student)