IT faces new challenges with more online classes
Abby Epstein – News Editor
Going remote has caused new challenges that has forced IT to think of new creative solutions.
“Largely Southern has been an on-premises, on-ground kind of university, so while we did have online programs and they were growing and becoming more robust, we weren’t ready for everything to go online,” said Director of Academic Technologies, Trevor Brolliar.
Lack of access to hardware and software, lack of access to WIFI, and lack of access to certain applications are the three main new challenges IT has had to overcome this semester.
“For hardware, we have computers on campus that we can loan out to faculty, staff and students,” said Director of Support Services, Vu Trieu. “We ship computers to students’ site, students’ homes or their best mailing address.”
For software, a portal was created which started over the summer because of the response to COVID-19.
“A portal is a virtualized application portal that allows students, faculty and staff to get access to applications not normally available at home, such as the Adobe suite,” said Trieu.
Students with mandatory applications for classes could now have access to the portal and download the applications needed on their computer at no charge.
Computers are in high demand this semester with there being three types of classes that students can have this fall: synchronous, asynchronous, and Hyflex. Hyflex is when students can watch a live lecture recording from home.
‘’We did outfit 20 classrooms with high technology, including cameras, so students could view what is happening in the classroom synchronously from home or asynchronously by giving the instructor the ability to capture their lectures and then put that in blackboard,” said Brolliar.
There were several trainings held over the summer to teach and assist faculty on how to use the three programs: TEAMS, WebEx and Blackboard, according to Brolliar.
“We have a new training schedule coming out next week for faculty. We’ve also offered a larger amount of trainings to students to get them up to speed on how to use the tools and how to connect,” said Brolliar.
Some students have not had problems with their online classes, but one student who has is graduate student Lesley-Ann Briscoe.
“The teacher uses a different software for her videos, so they post, but my laptop doesn’t have the software, so I have to find a computer lab on campus to watch them,” said Briscoe.
Brolliar said one thing they have seen as a struggle is internet connectivity. Due to students being home with family members, and everyone trying to use the internet at the same time, it ends up crashing.
“With the university we have been coming up with a lot of creative ways to resolve certain issues,” said Trieu. “We have worked over summer to get WIFI in the parking lots where students can park and use the WIFI there while on their laptops in their car.”
Listed on the university’s website under COVID-19, student support are more places around campus that offer WIFI access to students, which include the Academic Quad, Jess Dow Field, softball and baseball fields, Lyman Center, Residence Life Quad and West Campus Quad.
Students are able to reach out to the Dean of Student Services Jules Tetreault, who has been assisting students with getting internet.
“If there are any questions or concerns that students might have, to contact the help desk and we will have someone reach out and let them chat with them,” said Brolliar.