Didacticum and the IT Division make sure that your digital working day runs smoothly
Thousands of co-workers were suddenly faced with a new situation – all operations must be carried out remotely. Many people suddenly needed to know how to reconfigure their working methods. The central crisis management group gave the task to Didacticum and the IT Division.
At Didacticum, preparations for this year’s Pedagogikdagar had been under way for months, and right until the last moment it was hoped to be able to hold the event as planned. However, just a few days before the planned start, the management decided to change direction, and instead held several workshops on how to make distance work and distance education easier. These two days attracted nearly 450 active participants.
And the same was true of personnel at the IT Division, the hardware and software experts and those who provide IT training have all had to restructure their work and do everything they can to make operations in distance mode as easy as possible. This has involved support in using Zoom and Teams, and securing the operation of the vital VPN.
Didacticum and the IT Division reorganise and report for duty
We catch up with five co-workers and ask about their work situation during the previous week: Peter Dalenius at Didacticum, Richard Nylander at IT Training, Johan Gilbertsson at the IT Helpdesk and Andreas Göransson and Jenny Rydén at IT Support.
Johan: We’ve had plenty to do. We’ve received a lot of questions, most of them about our systems for remote working (Zoom and Teams), our learning platform (Lisam), and how to access LiU services from home, where one of the ways is to use the VPN.
Peter: We have had to reconfigure extensively, since all Didacticum courses and seminars are to take place remotely. At the same time, we’re trying to do everything we can to support teachers and other personnel in the new situation with teaching from home.
Richard: At IT Training we’ve rearranged the range of courses we offer and also revised the priority of courses held. We are following developments and will adapt to the level of demand for certain courses, such that we can support operations in the best possible manner.
Andreas: We provide co-workers with the items they need to work at home. This is everything from headsets, on-loan computers, and the software required for distance work. Many people have ordered new computers, peripherals, telephones, etc.
Jenny: There are several of us physically present here at the Valla IT service desk. We’ve had a lot more to do than usual in the past few days: I would say that around four times as many people need help. They come here to borrow a laptop, borrow cables, collect a telephone or other equipment they’ve ordered, etc. We have had a queue at busy periods, but it’s always nice to be able to help folk.
Figure legend: The service desk has had more than twice as many cases as usual, and Micaela Westerlund, Peter Nordgren and Jenny Rydén deal with them all. Photo: Thor Balkhed
What was your first thought when you heard about what was planned?
Johan: How will this affect us and our operations? What do we need to do to manage the situation as well as possible?
Peter: At Didacticum, we started to think about how the spread of the coronavirus would affect LiU quite early. And as we saw our speculations rapidly become reality, it was good to know that we were prepared. It was simply a matter of getting down to brass tacks and pitching in.
Richard: I wanted to join in and help, and it was gratifying and fun to be able to get involved and provide support in this special situation.
Andreas: We saw that it would be a good idea to be prepared, so we started to order more equipment, even before we received any orders. We understood that people would be needing new equipment.
Reconfiguring to distance work
What are the greatest challenges facing university personnel?
Johan: Getting “everything” to work as it did before, but remotely. and to do so with as short a transition time as possible to minimise disruption to our operations.
Peter: That everyone must find out about the tools and methods they can use to teach and hold exams remotely. It will be a steep learning for many people, but from what I’ve seen they’re all getting involved with enthusiasm.
How can we build offices at home?
Andreas: Some people borrow the computer monitor they have at LiU, while others order new monitors and take them home on loan (if the one they use at LiU is old). Many monitors nowadays are attached to the wall behind the desk, and unfortunately we don’t have feet that can be used with these. If your monitor is like this, you can borrow another monitor from us. And remember that all purchases must be approved by your manager.
Describe some of the important technical measures you’ve had to carry out in recent days.
Johan: The complete IT Division has worked hard recently to adapt our services to the changed needs, and I think we have managed this well. We have, for example:
- ensured that our systems for distance working (Teams and Zoom) can cope with the increased load
- adapted the Lisam learning platform and increased its capacity
- increased the capacity of the services that make it possible to access LiU resources outside of the LiU network (VPN, Thinlinc, etc.).
Figure legend: Andreas Göransson, one of the managers for IT Support at LiU. Photo: Thor Balkhed
You have held several digital workshops, and some of them have had more than 100 simultaneous participants. How has this worked out?
Richard: It went well, despite everything. We allowed people to register freely, and so we didn’t know how many would connect up. Of course, it’s difficult to answer the questions of an inquisitive group of nearly 100 people, but I think that most of them were satisfied, not only with the quality of the training, but also that we could offer it so quickly. Online teaching is difficult, but is opens some amazing new possibilities. In a teaching room I get feedback directly in the form of facial expressions and nods, and this is difficult when teaching online. But then I can offer completely new ways for the participants to interact during the teaching process, with chat, polls and a shared whiteboard.
Figure legend: Richard Nylander leading a workshop on Teams, using Zoom. Photo: Karin Midner
Even in distance mode, the wheels keep turning
How will you continue working to help those who are working remotely?
Johan: At the IT Helpdesk we are trying to ensure a high level of staffing and availability. We want to deal with all incoming questions and problems as fast as we can, and continue to provide the support needed to get started and manage distance working successfully.
Jenny: We will continue to have a physical presence at the LiU service desk, until we receive instructions that we are no longer allowed to. Some people who come to us for IT support need help to install software, or with fault-finding. It’s my experience that those who come here with such questions prefer to obtain support through a physical meeting, and we are, of course, happy to help, as long as we have time. People should, however, remember that many problems can be solved remotely, so I suggest that personnel ring the internal number 2828 first. Those who answer can usually solve many of the simpler faults and provide rapid answers to questions.
Richard: IT training and Didacticum will continue to support the transition to distance mode for as long as necessary. In the immediate future, we plan several drop-in sessions that focus of different topics.
Peter: LiU will not in any way come to a stop. The wheels keep turning. Everyone is doing their uttermost to ensure that the students can carry out their education. The next challenge for Didacticum will be to continue supporting teachers in the way they use the tools, as efficiently as possible with the best possible teaching effect. It probable that we’ll be running things from home for a considerable period.
Translated by George Farrants
Last updated: 2020-04-06