Letter from the CIO
It is easy to focus on the many challenges in 2020; but what I remember is the remarkable effort of individuals and teams within KU IT and across the university. To support the quick transition to remote classes and work, our staff accomplished a lot of work in a short amount of time as you’ll see below.
Rather than working to “get by” and wait out the pandemic, KU IT staff tackled the immediate challenges of remote teaching, learning and working, with a focus on refining and developing those efforts for the long-term benefit of the university. As an organization, we took opportunities to invest in technology that supports KU’s current and future needs. For example, we expanded our VPN capacity, upgraded technology in hundreds of classrooms, and provided students with remote access to specialized software in departmental computer labs.
We started 2020 with some big projects on our plates, such as moving email to the cloud, launching a new content management system and introducing Microsoft Teams. As you’ll see below, we achieved those successes while navigating the most disruptive and demanding global challenge in recent memory. I am grateful for the efforts of each and every KU IT staff member, and am proud of all they accomplished in 2020. And, I appreciate the collaboration and support of our campus and external partners who worked with us throughout the year.
Chief Information Officer
University of Kansas
Five Core Projects of 2020
From the big lift of moving email to the cloud to the behind-the-scenes but still very important effort to upgrade ImageNow, our scanning and document workflow service, KU IT’s major projects touched nearly every aspect of life at KU.
60,000-Plus KU Email Acounts Migrated to The Cloud
Even with a pause during the onset of the pandemic, KU IT staff were able to move 60,000 mailboxes containing roughly 50 TB of data to Microsoft’s cloud email servers. The project provides numerous benefits, including better integration with Office 365 applications. Other benefits include significantly increased email storage quotas, enhanced security against phishing and other threats, continued access to email in the case of a campus network disruption and a cost savings over time for the university.
Microsoft Teams is the Platform for the Jayhawk Cloud
The quick transition to remote teaching and working highlighted the need to redefine how KU faculty, sta and students engage with each other and the university no matter where in the world they are located. Microsoft Teams was identified as the ideal solution because it is a cloud-based workspace that brings together a number of helpful tools, including online chat, file sharing and storage, and video conferencing. To date, students, faculty and sta have created nearly 3,800 teams and usage trends indicate a steady and continuing increase in adoption. Teams is the foundation of the Jayhawk Cloud, an engaging informational and accessible networking hub where Jayhawks can create, discover, share knowledge and nurture relationships, building a diverse and inclusive community.
Marketing Communications and Web Development Roll Out Drupal 8 “Sunflower”
KU IT and Marketing and Communications partnered to design and build a new content management system (CMS) dubbed “Sunflower.” Sunflower provides hundreds of page templates and options, allowing campus units to create new, more engaging websites and a more consistent and high-quality visitor experience.
“Qless” Queuing System Introduced to Enhance Safety and Customer Satisfaction
KU IT partnered with Financial Services and KU Card Services to offer QLess, an appointment-scheduling and digital-queuing system that reduces waiting lines at campus offices and allows for social distancing. The service allows customers to schedule an appointment or join a line by text, mobile app, web browser or an onsite touchscreen kiosk. Employees can also add customers to a queue manually. The customer receives a text or call that keeps them updated on their wait time and status, or they can track their status in the mobile app.
ImageNow System Upgrade Transitions Key Hiring Documents to Digital
KU IT partnered with KU Human Resource Management to upgrade the ImageNow scanning and document workflow system. Among other things, the upgrade allows for a paperless salary letter acknowledgement process, making it more convenient for KU employees and saving the university time and money.
2020 by the Numbers
Virtual Training Sessions
Content Management System
KU IT Staff
Coronavirus in Focus
The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every corner of our lives, and that includes our lives as Jayhawks. KU IT embarked on an unprecedented effort this year to help campus transform how we teach, learn, work and socialize. The effort is still unfolding: 2021 promises to be a year of growth, and KU IT leaders have set a Technical Roadmap to identify and track big projects and areas of focus.
Technology in the Classroom: A New Tech Environment for a New Kind of Teaching
KU IT staff spent the latter half of the spring semester and much of the summer prepping over 450 classrooms for hybrid instruction. Two hundred new computers were deployed to classrooms along with 15 technology mobile carts.
Technology Support Centers: Keeping Campus Humming
The TSCs continued to provide direct support, including distributing tech for online teaching (e.g., headsets, cameras, microphones, etc.) and have remained a vital resource for KU departments.
Workstation Technologies: Powering Computing Across Campus
Workstation Technology staff expanded access to Virtual Lab in the spring to provide remote access to individual computers within departmental computer labs, ensuring students and faculty can use the essential department-specific applications they need at home. Workstation Technology staff also:
- Ramped up remote access efforts so they could provide customer service while ensuring physical distancing.
- Set up hundreds of iPads to support use of the CVKey symptom checker app on campus.
- Implemented Adobe Sign for e-signature, reducing the need for in-person signatures and distribution of paper documents.
Customer Service Center: The Heart of IT
Customer Service Center staff were the unsung IT heroes, answering approximately 2,000 additional tickets this year compared to last year. In addition to keeping the lines open and tickets turning over, they implemented webchat to provide students, faculty and staff another way to get help when they need it.
Education Technologies: Going to the Mat for Faculty
In a matter of days, KU IT’s Educational Technologists worked with the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Center for Online and Distance Learning to launch a website providing essential information to help faculty, students and staff transition to online teaching, learning and working. Alongside the CSC, they answered thousands of calls and emails and worked one-on-one with hundreds of instructors to help transition courses to online and hybrid formats.
Early in the pandemic, Educational Technologists and other KU IT staff helped organize weekly informational sessions leading up to and through the first week of the fall semester to help instructors use technology with their courses. Approximately 450 instructors and staff attended the sessions, which were so well received there is a demand to continue them going forward.
Web Development created the Protect KU website to communicate essential pandemicrelated information to the KU community. Web Services also quickly stood up COVID Test, a custom web application where students, faculty and staff could schedule appointments to be tested for COVID-19. And, alongside these efforts, the Web Development team worked as part of a cross-campus project team and helped implement the CVKey symptom checker app and website.
Protect KU Website Metrics
Enterprise Networking, Infrastructure, Support and Operations: The KU You Stand On
In addition to ensuring KU’s physical information technology plant was ready to serve the thousands of newly remote instructors, learners and workers, this essential team expanded VPN access from approximately 1,500 to 10,000 available connections so faculty and staff could securely connect to essential campus resources. This team also worked with several campus partners to ensure outdoor tents set up across campus had Wi-Fi to accommodate Jayhawks who needed a place to study or hang out between in-person classes.
Card Center Services and Enterprise Infrastructure, Support and Operations: Front Line Physical Security
As an IT organization, much of our focus is on computer security, but thanks to Card Center Services, campus buildings are more secure than ever while still being accessible during the pandemic. Card Center Services partnered with KU Operations on the installation and management of card readers at building entrances. Faculty and staff can use their KU Card to enter buildings after hours or at other times they are locked. A total of 35 were installed in 2020.
KU IT Administration: Tech from a Distance
KU IT worked with the KU Bookstore to develop and manage a laptop and Wi-Fi hotspot lending program to put technology in the hands of those who didn’t have adequate resources for remote teaching and learning. The program, which was particularly valuable for students from marginalized backgrounds, distributed 145 laptops and 225 hotspots.