Getting everyone plugged in and attending classes, teaching or working online was a scramble - but the main technological issues are behind us, Highline’s top IT official said.
“The biggest issue has been consistency of equipment and internet connections with people, that goes across the board,” Executive Director of Information Technology Services Tim Wrye said.
And this goes beyond students, too.
“Not everybody has a viable machine at home,” he said. “I think we might make assumptions that that’s the case for faculty and staff.”
An issue that came up a lot was ensuring all students, staff and faculty had something through which to access the internet.
“It was a scramble for us initially just to find out what the needs were, and then to acquire the equipment to help those folks out,” Wrye said.
Wrye said that getting internet connections through to everyone was another challenge, because lots of other people were doing this at the same time.
“One of the [internet providers] told us at one point that they literally had thousands of back orders that they had to fill,” he said.
For those who already have an internet provider but are having difficulties, Wrye said that he recommends calling your provider.
“For people that already do have it and have just been struggling with speed and bandwidth issues, just call your providers,” he said.
This could help, because many internet providers are giving people deals or discounts during these difficult times, Wrye said.
Ultimately, having universal broadband access would be ideal now, since so many people are being required to work and attend school from home, he said.
“The conversation I keep having with people outside of the school at a state level, [is that] the need for universal broadband access is really the key thing that would help support employees and students going forward to participate remotely,” Wrye said. “If they don’t have a solid internet connection at home, they won't be able to do what they have to do.”
Looking forward, there are possible changes regarding how technology will work for Highline staff and faculty, he said.
“There's been a lot of conversations now about going with what we call ‘mobile-first’ for faculty and staff computers,” Wrye said.
This would be ensuring that work computers are portable, by using devices such as Chromebooks.
“We’re already talking about reevaluating how we provide faculty and staff with computers in the future,” he said. “That is a way we can be better prepared for mobile work.”
A major part of getting everyone set up with technology and able to access their work from home, was ensuring that staff and faculty were being trained and remained on the same page.
Director of Educational Technology Marc Lentini was a big contributor to this, Wrye said.
“There's a huge piece of this that Marc Lentini and his instructional design folks did. They did an amazing job of supporting the rest of the faculty through transitioning,” he said. “It was really about training the faculty to adjust to the new situation and the new tools.”
Another impressive turnaround on campus, was how quickly Student Services and Financial Aid set up their remote and online offices, Wrye said.
“Student Services and Financial Aid have been doing a really good job about going online,” Wrye said. “Everyone’s really stepped up and done an amazing job.”