IT team

Photo taken pre-COVID

Things were mostly normal at WSU Health Sciences Spokane (WSU Spokane) the week of March 19. Spring Break was right around the corner and plans were in place for various end-of-academic-year events, including commencement.

But then, as we all know, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) unleashed itself on the globe and things changed dramatically.

Students pivoted to remote learning once they “returned” from Spring Break, and most on-campus personnel transitioned to working remotely.

For the Information Technology (IT) department, this was a quick, major shift. Fast forward seven months and students are still attending remote classes and most employees are still working from home.

As it prepared for the fall semester, the IT team reached out to instructors in the summer to help and set online instruction support expectations. IT also collaborated with WSU’s system-wide campuses to better unify resources and support services. This was important for WSU Spokane, as staff and faculty aren’t only located in Spokane—some are located at WSU’s statewide campuses.

And while most personnel are working from home, so is most of the IT department.

Bryan Valley“Operational support is challenging at times due to the relationship aspect of frontline support and the expectations our customers have,” said Bryan Valley (pictured at left), IT’s director of infrastructure. “That being said, we have the tools to effectively support staff and faculty remotely for 95% of all issues submitted.”

Having an entire campus population learn and work remotely has forced IT to re-evaluate or create new internal processes to adjust, but it has also reminded folks of how important IT’s services are to the campus.

“(Remote work) has emphasized the value of IT services and has required IT to bolster existing services so remote users have the tools and access they need to get the work done,” Valley said. “The biggest challenge is understanding technology needs in the home, like the quality of the home network and bandwidth available.”

Like many units on campus, IT has a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) that outlines processes and procedures to take in the event of any specific crisis or threat. Like much of society, a global pandemic wasn’t top-of-mind in the COOP.

“While we have general guidelines in our existing COOP that assisted us in this, living through it provides us better clarity should this happen again,” Valley said.

Remote learning and working from home are becoming the norm this school year, and WSU Spokane’s IT department is ensuring this engine keeps running smoothly.