We in DoIT know that numbers alone can’t capture the time and effort UMBC students, faculty and staff have put into coping with the disruption caused by the Coronavirus global pandemic. However, after the start of campus-wide online instruction last week, we wanted to provide a “bird’s eye view” of the various systems and tools that now make up everyone’s virtual UMBC.
For example, consider the following changes we’re seeing in just a few related tools (Collaborate, Webex and Panopto) compared to the first week of March, when “academic continuity” and “business continuity” were still becoming common terms like “social distancing.”
In terms of campus Blackboard usage, UMBC already started from a strong position. Apart from averaging 25k total logins per day last week, prior research has shown that UMBC’s Blackboard usage is higher compared to most institutions. Obviously, this reflects the hard work and dedication of faculty (especially preparing for last week), but we also want to extend special thanks to faculty serving as Academic Continuity “Ambassadors.” Through a brief survey last week, we learned Ambassadors have already provided support to more than 100 colleagues and peers, primarily through one-to-one direct assistance. The most popular topics include Collaborate, Assessments and Panopto.
DoIT’s Instructional Technology & New Media group has also seen similar high volume interest in these topics. To date, we’ve hosted 216 and 194 participants in virtual “drop ins” and “pop up” focused training workshops, respectively. For a glimpse of what these sessions are like, check out this brief (3 min) clip of DoIT's Collin Sullivan demonstrating how to use OneNote in Blackboard for shared annotations, taken from a recorded virtual drop-in workshop for the Math Department last Friday, March 27. In addition to several DoIT ITNM staff responding to a robust "back channel" chat, the workshop was attended by 16 math faculty. Special thanks again to Math faculty member (and Academic Continuity Ambassador) Liz Stanwyck and Department Chair Animikh Biswas for the invitation and support. More info, including new evening drop-ins twice a week, are available on the DoIT Academic Continuity and Training sites.
UMBC’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) knowledge base has also increased 45% from March 2019 (66,154 pageviews) vs. March 2020 (95,974 pageviews). By contrast, phone calls and Request Tracker (RT) ticket volume for DoIT’s Technology Support Center (TSC) have been relatively flat compared to FAQ usage. Tip: See the FAQs about FAQs, including why campus support offices and staff should use the FAQs to help users help themselves.
Beyond everyone's continued health and safety, we know there is obvious concern with how well students are able to make the transition to online learning. We know there are challenges, but if you haven’t seen it already, please check out (and share) DoIT’s tips for students about getting online, getting a computer, and getting software.
In particular, in terms of software, we’ve just added a faster, more user friendly Virtual Lab Environment for all students and faculty to use for classes and instruction. The new system allows students to use all University software without having to download or install those applications on their own computers. It leverages UMBC’s computing resources, and can be accessed from any type of device, including Chromebooks, tablets, mobile devices or regular computers, making it easier than ever for students to get access to the tools they need for their classes. Instructions for accessing the system can be found at umbc.edu/go/vde-faq.
To help faculty quickly determine if, and how frequently, students are keeping up during the move to campus-wide online instruction, DoIT’s Analytics and Business Intelligence group has also recently provided new Report Exchange (REX) reports focused on days since last login, dependence on mobile devices, and “Student at a Glance” reports showing patterns and trends across all courses a student is enrolled in that use Blackboard (Reminder: accessing REX reports from off campus requires logging in with the Virtual Private Network (VPN) to emulate an on-campus connection). Similar, more detailed reports the new reports are derived from are also available inside every Blackboard course.
Finally, as more of us move to work and life online, DoIT’s IT Security group has provided important updates about such topics as home network security, telework security resources, and the rise in COVID-19-related scams, including insurance offers, unexpected calendar invites, and fake Docusign phishing messages. Similarly, DoIT’s Business Systems Group (BSG) made sure Human Resources has what they need to track leave, process payroll and make sure employees still get paid. BSG also quickly developed and added Docusign exception request forms so researchers can come to campus to maintain facilities and experiments, and students can seek approval of applied learning experiences.