Campus Technology Update - March 20

This is a challenging time for our community as we grapple with the needs of our students, restructuring pedagogy, and rethinking business process, all while dealing with the impacts on our personal lives and our families. The rapid change to working from home was not something many of us had prepared for and has presented many challenges. Current University work/teach remote technologies were never meant to accommodate the volume of people now using them.

In that context I consider the fact that we are able to conduct business at all under these circumstances a minor miracle. It is only by God’s grace, the foresight of incredible folks He’s placed in CIS and ETM over the years, and their advocating for the adoption of new technologies that SPU is enabled to pivot operations so quickly. I have been amazed to see how so many have pulled together (while practicing social distancing) to find new ways of serving our community and our students in this crisis.

It has been a bit hectic in CIS as we head toward classes resuming in a few weeks.  We are working to scale up existing technologies to accommodate the dramatic increase in demand while rolling out new systems to ensure business continuity. I want to give special thanks to the great folks in CIS and ETM who are making all this possible.  Here is what we're doing in order of priority.

Remote Access to Campus (SPU VPN & Citrix)

The current SPU VPN, which allows access to the campus network remotely, does not scale beyond 50-60 people. This platform has started failing and cutting off access to department file shares and some campus applications as more faculty and staff have moved to remote work. Our Citrix license is limited to 20 concurrent users. 

Recommendation: When you don't need access to department file shares or on campus systems like Raiser's Edge, please disconnect from the VPN to allow others access to resources.

Action Plan: We’re rapidly testing and rolling out a completely new technology to replace the SPU VPN that does not have the same limitations.  The rapid roll-out with little time to test or wait for off hours is what caused the network outages yesterday. The fantastic staff in CIS are making great progress and hope to have this completed early next week.

Academic Labs

Classroom instruction for many programs requires the use of nearly eighty software applications that are currently only accessible by students in on-campus computer labs. CIS is working with Amazon to recreate the lab environment in the cloud, allowing students to access these tools critical to the learning experience from any internet-enabled device, anywhere in the world.

Video Conferencing (Zoom Pro / MS Teams)

Zoom Pro video conferencing will be the primary method for delivering live classes online. We managed to increase our license from 200 seats up to 450 a few weeks ago.  We’re currently working on a new contract with Zoom to scale up to 800 seats, allowing access to all key faculty and staff.  We are also working on procuring several HIPAA-compliant Zoom licenses to allow remote health consults and counseling sessions.

For Microsoft Teams video calling: we've worked directly with Microsoft to resolve a majority of the connectivity and slowness issues. Make sure to disconnect from the SPU VPN while using Teams video chat.

Laptops / Computers

Several faculty and staff do not have laptops or computers to work from home. The Technology Support Services team at the CIS HelpDesk has prepared a number of laptops and all-in-one computers to help. Please work with your supervisor to get access to a loaner device. If you plan to use personal equipment from home, please review the Working from Home with Personal Devices post. 

Call Centers and Phones

The CIS Helpdesk is piloting a cloud-based call center to run our tech support call center remotely. Please reach out to the CIS Helpdesk if there are call center needs in your areas as well.  This is a short term solution to get us through the next few months.  Long term, CIS is working to pivot away from our ancient campus phone system to a cloud-based platform. 

For individual phones, all voicemail is forwarded to the recipients SPU email, unless they opted out. CIS can setup a Voicemail call forward to your home phone or cell phone after your out of office message (“This is …. Press 0 to be forwarded to my cell phone”).