Going virtual: UTM’s IT team keeps campus community connected
The changed environment due to COVID-19 over the past four months provided work challenges for most people, but perhaps none more so than UTM’s Information & Instructional Technology Services (I&ITS), who have been tasked with ensuring people are equipped to function remotely.
Physical distancing measures and the move to learning and working remotely necessitated the installation of virtual private networks (VPNs) and software updates to laptops and other devices. The technology services team has also helped facilitate a host of online events, including Zoom meetings, conferences, tutorials, grad ceremonies and workshops.
“Our classroom and event support team has always provided remote support services in the past, largely using Zoom and Zoom Room features, such as webinar and breakout rooms, and remote event standby assistance, but this new environment definitely presented a shift for us,” says Luke Barber, director, I&ITS.
So far, their offerings have ranged in scale and format. The team’s aim is to keep up with demand and work directly with members of the UTM community to identify their unique requirements.
“Sometimes it takes some drilling down, but once we ask questions to determine our users’ needs, we are able to guide them with their options and collaborate on ideas to then figure out the final product and best possible outcome,” says Robert Martins, manager, event and classroom experience.
Martins says that the events they have helped facilitate varied from small groups using Microsoft Teams to larger pools of participation using Zoom, with one international conference that drew in approximately 1500 registrants.
While the team has been using Zoom technology for the past three years, Martins says they are still discovering some of its capabilities as they continuously upgrade, including the possibility of overcoming language barriers.
“For this large-scale international conference as an example, it was streaming to South America and Europe at the same time,” says Martins.
“There is an interpretation setting within Zoom that enables different dialogues simultaneously, and there were Spanish and German interpreters to help translate via voiceovers in real time.”
He says his team has been impressed with the options Zoom offers and that their platform has proven to be very stable. Since UTM has a site license everyone can create a Zoom account.
However, the I&ITS team is committed to continually reviewing what the competition is offering and assessing the best options for virtual connections available to UTM staff, faculty, librarians and students.
“Whatever we have done onsite at UTM in the past, we continue to do virtually,” says Martins.
“Our team is happy to work with the UTM community, and if there are needs that our services cannot accommodate, we are looking to build capacity in house or find effective solutions in order to expand our toolkit and I&ITS’s offerings.”