Before the University of Nebraska-Lincoln made its official decision on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Information Technology Services had been preparing to transition to online courses.
Heath Tuttle, UNL’s chief information officer and ITS assistant president, said ITS transitioned all four University of Nebraska campuses to use the same vendors like Canvas, an educational software, and Zoom, a conferencing software, three to four years ago. He said ITS has been in contact with these vendors to prepare for online classes, and the services seem to be ready.
“We’re talking to them, asking them how they're preparing for this increased use on their systems,” Tuttle said. “They’ve all told us that they are prepared for it. They’re working with their storage providers … to make sure that they can ramp up if needed.”
Tuttle said students should check if their devices are able to work for online classes. He said students should specifically take note if their device can handle taking courses online, if it has a webcam or needs an external one and if they have a secure internet connection at the place where they will be living for the next few months.
If a student does not have a computer, Tuttle said ITS has 156 Macs and 126 PCs for checkout, but they are almost always completely checked out.
“We highly encourage [students] to return the laptop if it is not essential to your learning, so it can be distributed to those students who do not have access to a computer.”
With courses moving online, he said laptops can now be checked out for the rest of the semester instead of only a week.
He said any students returning a laptop should return it to the same location they checked it out from. The check-in locations, located at the Nebraska Union, East Campus Union, Adele Hall Learning Commons and Henzlik Hall, will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Along with working on laptop checkout, he said ITS has been working with teachers to ensure everyone is able to get the help they need to transition to online courses, including preparing PDFs of readings and creating online assignments.
“We will be all hands on deck helping faculty convert courses,” he said. “We’re talking internally about what staff already have those skills and know how those systems work, what staff we need to train up on those systems.”
In order to ensure ITS can help faculty, Tuttle said ITS has been working internally to ensure its own staff is able to connect with teachers.
“If we have staff who don’t have a webcam, but we want them to Zoom with faculty in order to help build a course, we need to think about those sorts of things,” he said.
Tuttle said they have also been working to ensure phone calls can be forwarded in the case a faculty or staff member isn’t able to come in to work.
Overall, Tuttle said the keys to making it through this transition are patience and flexibility.
“It takes a lot of work and a lot of time and a lot of effort for courses that haven’t been taught before to be moved into that sort of environment, so we may not have everything up and going on day one, but people will get there,” he said. “We’re all in this together and we’re gonna get through it.”