Six months have passed since the Faculty of Arts moved online in response to COVID-19. Working behind the scenes, the Faculty’s dedicated learning, teaching and technology support team — Arts ISIT (Instructional Support and Information Technology) — has been doing everything they can to make the transition to online teaching and working as seamless as possible.
Making online teaching and learning a reality — and fast
At the first sign that UBC could be moving online back in March 2020, the Arts ISIT team quickly started expanding the remote working and teaching resources available to faculty and staff on the ISIT website. The ISIT team began by creating service pages on tools like Gradescope and Zoom, as well as an Internet Connection Best Practices guide to help ensure faculty and staff had access to important tools and resources during this critical time in the academic year.
“Without help from Arts ISIT, I wouldn’t have been able to transition as well, and with as many innovative and flexible learning activities, as I have been under these very challenging circumstances.”
The team also developed a remote teaching demo course and template that makes it easier for faculty to develop their online courses, syllabi and teaching strategies and it’s been a hit. “Wow, super impressed by the @ArtsISIT_UBC remote instruction template for Canvas, which instantly fabulized my course site and shaved off so much anxiety,” shared Assistant Professor of German Studies Ervin Malakaj on Twitter. The team’s teaching demo has received over 20,000 page views and nearly 400 enrollments since May.
All those efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, and numerous other Arts faculty have contacted the team with glowing feedback. “Without all of the help from everyone at Arts ISIT, I wouldn’t have been able to transition as well, and with as many innovative and flexible learning activities, as I have been under these very challenging circumstances,” wrote Jennifer Gagnon, Sessional Instructor for the Department of Political Science, Arts Studies in Research and Writing, and Vantage College. “Everyone at Arts ISIT has been an absolute hero in supporting faculty like myself and all of our students,” Gagnon emphasized.
Providing human-centric solutions
Since transitioning to remote teaching and work in March, faculty and staff have continued to express their appreciation to the team for delivering such a high degree of service — despite the challenges. “I cannot thank Arts ISIT enough for the ongoing professional support, responsiveness and creativity in problem solving at this complex time,” wrote Mark Turin, Associate Professor for the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies and Department of Anthropology. And as Terence Dawson, Past Chair and Undergraduate and Graduate Coordinator of the Keyboard Division, put it, “at a challenging time with the number of calls I can only imagine as being overwhelming, the staff at Arts ISIT are always extremely helpful.”
“I cannot thank Arts ISIT enough for the ongoing professional support, responsiveness and creativity in problem solving at this complex time.”
The team uses remote desktop technology and takes calls at home to provide effectively the same support they were offering on campus, without being physically present. “We’ve re-routed our telephone line to our homes to answer calls so that users can continue to call us for help as if nothing changed,” says Gary Chan, Arts ISIT Manager of Help Desk and AV Support.
These efforts to maintain service-as-usual are particularly impressive given how in-demand the team’s expertise has become. Arts ISIT has been fielding nearly double the amount of support tickets compared to previous years — totalling more than 10,000 support tickets since beginning the transition online in March.
So far, that demand has continued into September, and Gary says he and his team are eager to help — and that they’re grateful for their colleagues’ understanding during this exceptionally busy period. “We hope everyone will reconsider how IT or Learning Technology services are delivered in these unprecedented times and ask you, our users, to take that into account, be kind, be calm and be safe,” said Gary. “Your patience will be needed and appreciated.”
Arts ISIT is the learning, teaching, and technology support unit for the Faculty of Arts. The team offers an array of resources and services to support faculty with their classes, including workshops for teaching and learning online. Arts ISIT also provides staff with training, technical support and assistance with software set-ups and maintenance, Arts website development and the transition to working online.