Article Originally Published by Will Tarpley on North Texas Daily
With 44 percent of classes online for the fall semester, the university has some plans in motion to provide students with access to Information Technology services and other technology resources.
According to the University’s IT Service Desk Manager Sarukh Mithani, the University Information Technology branch hasn’t stopped.
Despite the pandemic, Mithani said the University IT is still going strong.
“The various academic and administrative IT groups have been in regular contact and have been trying to provide alternative/improved services in the wake of the pandemic,” Mithani said via email. “We’re continuing to improve our services and standardize our solutions to provide a cohesive suite of services to students.”
The second half of the spring semester brought up several questions about online classes and Mithani said UIT has been working around the clock to answer them.
“We’ve seen an increase in questions about our remote lab offerings, like CloudLab,” Mithani said. “We’ve also been getting a lot of questions about Canvas and supporting tools like Lockdown Browser. We’ve added a support page for Lockdown Browser to walk students through the installation and setup process.”
CloudLab allows for remote access to the university’s physical and virtual computer labs, while the Respondus Lockdown Browser allows students to take exams on their devices while managing their browser to prevent cheating.
“Software varies between the labs, as many computer labs are specialized to a specific department or major,” Mithani said. “You can view the lab list to visit each lab’s website and find software available in each computer lab. As far as the UIT Adaptive Lab is concerned, we specialize in software for assistive/adaptive use. For example, we offer screen reading and zooming software like JAWS, MAGic, etc.”
While Mithani said he was not sure about the university providing access to Adobe Creative Cloud in the fall, Helpdesk technician Isma Aram said the current temporary access is set to expire Aug. 14.
Aram said the Helpdesk is currently working remotely but will be fully in-person in the fall semester.
“We do have walk-ins, even right now,” Aram said. “But the fall time will be full access. It is going to be very similar to how it was before any of the COVID changes were made. As far as [what] we have available, there won’t be anything we won’t make available because of COVID.”
Mithani said UIT will have safety protocols in place during the fall semester.
“We will have limited capacity due to social distancing concerns, and we will have various measures in place to keep students and our employees safe,” Mithani said. “Of course, we understand that not everyone can/will come to campus, so we are continuing to provide phone/chat-based support and are continuing to provide our lab resources remotely.”
In regards to remote access and computer labs — such as the one UIT runs on the third floor of Sage Hall — Mithani said most labs were implementing procedures with social distancing in mind, though not all are necessarily identical.
“Computer labs are implementing social distancing procedures, limiting lab capacities, and cleaning after each use,” Mithani said. “Each lab may have different policies in place. In addition to in-person computer lab access, many labs will have remote access available as we currently do.”
More information on which labs have remote access and the policies of each computer lab can be found on the university’s computer lab webpage. Most labs are currently open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. this summer.
The Media Library, located on Chilton’s ground floor, is where students can check out movies, media players and gaming stations. The Media Library’s Front Desk Supervisor Janet Strother said they “are still working to finalize the plans for reopening,” and gave Aug. 17 as an approximate date for when a plan will be closer to completion.
In the meantime, Mithani said UIT is committed to continuing to expand and adapt to student’s needs.
“The goal of UIT is to continue to provide the IT services that students need,” Mithani said. “We spent the summer expanding our virtual lab service, introducing virtual proctoring through the UIT Testing Center, and improving our chat availability so students have even more ways to get help and get the services they need. We will continue to provide these services and look for new opportunities to expand through the fall semester.”
Featured Image: Students work on laptops in the Union Starbucks on March 27, 2019. Course delivery for fall has been finalized with 44% being remote or online, and a majority of classes being held in-person. Image by Samuel Gomez
Source: North Texas Daily