University of Wisconsin–Madison
CIO Blog

Reflection on the past few weeks—and the work ahead

It has been an intense and unprecedented couple of weeks as we’ve helped the university shift to a fully virtual environment. I want to take a moment to reflect on this time, then offer a few thoughts about the future.

The university has always relied on the IT team and the technology and services we provide. Now, however, as UW–Madison for the time being becomes a virtual university in response to COVID-19, the Division of Information Technology and our IT partners across the university underpin the entire operation of this institution.

The start of classes last week went well. We encountered a few bumps, as expected. But due to solid planning and hard lifting efforts across the university, at the start of this week about 92% of the 9,000 courses and sections were ready to go online—a real feat. A university-wide team of talented individuals worked collaboratively with the university’s instructors to hit this mark.

I want to acknowledge three teams in DoIT who were instrumental in helping the university move to remote education:

  • Academic Technology coordinated the effort across the university to move to online instruction, worked directly with instructors to do so, and filled in the technology portfolio with online proctoring to support remote exams.
  • User Services experienced call volumes 3-4 times higher than normal, yet kept hang-up rates at less than 1%—managing the load above benchmarks.
  • Communications kept information flowing, developing messaging, updating websites and documentation, and coordinating the technology information flow with the university communication effort.

Throughout DoIT, colleagues stepped up to the challenges, augmenting systems, providing technical expertise, lending a hand.

Across the university IT community there have been hundreds of actions to support the shift to remote education, research and work. We facilitated the order and distribution of hundreds of laptops for other divisions, organized laptop distribution to students, supported videoconferences, made rapid system changes to support administrative needs, gathered disinfectants and delivered to the medical teams, and a host of other things that the IT community has accomplished to help others.

It was a heavy lift, but with every hand lifting, we have together helped the university successfully accomplish this massive change. It is a privilege to be a member of this community.

But even as we celebrate our successes and acts of kindness and community, a lot of work remains ahead of us. From an IT and academic technology perspective, we will now focus our efforts on improving the online learning and teaching experience, as well as ensuring that our systems and technology remain robust and resilient to keep university employees working productively from home.

The executive team and I are looking at the DoIT project list with an eye toward which projects might accelerate and which might be deprioritized. We are also undertaking expense control within DoIT, given the financial toll of COVID-19 for the university due to lost revenue and immediate costs. We need to be ready to adjust as needed.