IT Keeps TMCC Connected

Staff from the information technology department in a Zoom meeting.
Rebecca A. Eckland

It’s been nearly a year since we moved to remote operations, which means a lot more screen time for students, faculty and staff. But that also means a lot more work for the small but mighty crew of the TMCC Information Technology Department. In the fall semester alone, there were 142,896 hours of Zoom sessions happening at TMCC (or 8,573,751 meeting minutes) and a total of 7,129 scheduled, recurring meetings (which doesn’t include impromptu staff meetings, office hours or any meeting that was not scheduled in advance. 
But it’s not all about Zoom. Running through the numbers from Fall 2020, IT administered student accounts by resetting on average 18 student passwords a day, which equates to 1,510 throughout the course of the semester; they performed the same for TMCC employees over the phone or offering the self-service tool for a total of 1,418 for the entire semester. 
Also during the Fall 2020 semester, TMCC Programming Services further developed the Canvas Retention tool to keep students connected to their classes on Canvas. This tool helps WebCollege staff identify students who have not logged into Canvas, or who have not completed required tasks (for example: uploading their homework.) Through its reporting system, this new retention tool identified 986 students who hadn’t signed into Canvas for various reasons, enabling WebCollege staff to reach out and offer support. 
IT is also keeping us connected through Eduroam, a service that enables any TMCC student or employee to use their login credentials at any other institution in the world that is also using Eduroam to connect to their wifi network. Currently, all NSHE institutions are on Eduroam, which means your TMCC authentication information can get you on the wifi network at any NSHE community college or university around the state.  
IT has also installed five kiosks to connect students to staff who are currently working remotely. These kiosks exist at the William N. Pennington Health Science Center, the William N. Pennington Applied Technology Center and three located at the Dandini Campus. “These kiosks are perfect for hosting virtual office hours,” said Thomas Dobbert, Chief Technology Officer. “This enables faculty and staff to connect with students when they need their questions answered.”

IT Helps Students, Faculty and Staff with PC/Laptop Loaner Program

IT staff have also been hard at work keeping us connected through the PC/laptop loaner program. According to Dobbert, the program went smoothly for both full-time faculty and TMCC students in need of a computer. “Instructors had to know which students needed a computer, and they submitted a list to IT. Then, IT called the student to make an appointment to get to campus, pick up the equipment and sign the waiver. In total, IT provided TMCC students, faculty, and staff with 120 loaner computers during Fall 2020. This was due in no small part to the dedication of IT staff, including student workers, who worked at the Dandini Campus to issue this equipment to those who needed it."
“Getting faculty set up [with technology since COVID-19] has been a surprisingly positive experience,” said Dobbert. “All instructors really take this very seriously, and they want to do the best they can. So they reach out to the right places and we accommodate them as much as we can.” A few examples include instructors working with media services staff before the semester began. Media services staff was in the classroom at TMCC, while the instructors accessed the cameras and other technology remotely. “They were able to show them how to switch between cameras remotely so that their face is seen and how they control the whiteboard, for example.”
IT has also provided instructors who are teaching in-person classes with the tools they need to be successful. This support ranges from voice amplifiers so students can hear their instructors despite wearing a mask, to adding teaching stations and projectors to the large fitness room in the Sports and Fitness Center to accommodate larger in-person classes (for example in the Nursing program) to maintain proper social distancing standards. “The flexibility we can afford is pretty amazing,” said Dobbert. “Faculty have been very responsive and so we’ve been able to accommodate this situation.”
Most importantly, however, IT has been keeping us all safe from cyber attacks. “We’ve used this time to update all network switches, the hardware, the firmware. We installed the new VPN, which allows TMCC employees to access our network remotely,” said Dobbert. All of this helps to keep TMCC data safe.

IT Customer Service: A One-Stop-Shop

IT Customer Service, too, has kept everyone connected thanks to the Help Desk, which Dobbert calls a “One Stop Shop” to assist students, faculty and staff with everything from password resets to unlocking accounts or technical questions.
“Everything can go through IT Customer Service, essentially,” he said. The Help Desk is staffed by full-time employees Duncan Smithson and Paul Peterson, along with two student workers. The number of calls fielded by IT Customer Service increased considerably last semester to an average of 100 calls per day, but it was nothing this department couldn’t handle.
The lesson? No matter if you forgot your password, you need a computer or help projecting your voice through a mask, TMCC’s IT department has got your back.
For more information about Information Technology, contact the department at 775-673-7800.