University of Nebraska Information Technology Services, a unified organization serving the NU system as well as the Kearney, Lincoln and Omaha campuses, is actively engaging in planning efforts related to COVID-19.
ITS services and systems are designed to be delivered anywhere, with a few exceptions*. ITS is actively working with our major service providers to understand their plans to adapt to increased usage and traffic. We do not anticipate any disruption to critical services in learning technologies, security, email, the network, or student/ employee systems such as PeopleSoft/SAP if COVID-19 took us into largely an online/digital mode of operation.
Our core platforms used heavily for teaching and learning – including Canvas, Zoom, VidGrid, TurnItIn, Respondus and others – are cloud-based and can be accessed from any location. Canvas course shells are already created for all courses, Zoom accounts supporting up to 300 participants per meeting are available to all users, and mobile apps for these platforms are available for on-the-go use. 24x7x365 support is available via chat/email/phone for any Canvas user, and the IT teams who support faculty would continue to do so remotely.
Customer support through the NU ITS Operations Center (staffed 24 hours a day) and campus help desk operations can continue to operate the vast majority of their services without limitation. The ticketing system is accessible from anywhere, so the current processes would remain active and in-place.
Small inventories of laptops exist as part of an ITS student check-out program and would be communicated and maximized in the case any of our campuses needed to pivot to online/digital learning mode. We are collaborating with other units on the campuses to identify additional inventories of laptops/mobile devices that could be utilized for faculty/staff check-out, if needed.
We are working closely with campus planning teams to accommodate and support action plans as they take shape, looking for opportunities to work together and share resources across multiple sites when possible and appropriate. We recognize that county health officials will dictate protocol, which may vary from campus-to- campus across the University of Nebraska due to our distributed physical locations across the state.
Additional items of note related to NU ITS and COVID-19 preparedness:
- A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is available to allow faculty, staff and students to remotely access services that are only offered while on the campus network. Campus users that would likely need to access the VPN already do so, and it is not required to access any services that are publicly available. Current VPN throughput is sufficient to handle any increase in traffic we may encounter.
- The infrastructure that supports the University of Nebraska is designed for resiliency, reliability and performance. It is supported from geographically dispersed locations across the campuses as a course of regular business.
- Existing cybersecurity services will continue to be provided on all campuses from dispersed geographic locations.
- All campus phones can be forwarded by the user to a personal cell phone or home phone.
- Softphones can be deployed to support critical business cases from remote locations. Deployment requires ITS to provision licenses and setup a profile in a tool called Jabber.
- ITS staff are accustomed to working virtually and with remote teams, which would allow us to seamlessly continue to serve students, faculty and staff if we pivot into online/digital delivery mode.
*IT services that may be impacted as a result of an incident such as COVID-19 include the Digital Learning Center at UNL, computer labs, data center changes to physical equipment, incident response forensic investigation of physical equipment, some phones, and fax.