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Interactive Town Hall connects ITS staff

Published on: September 25, 2020

ITS Town Hall attendees pictured with MS Teams ‘together mode.’ Credit: Tanya Shattuck

On Sept. 10, University of Toronto’s (U of T) Information Technology Services (ITS) department hosted a virtual town hall meeting, attended by approximately 212 ITS staff members.

The virtual meeting was moderated by Director of Online Learning Strategies, Laurie Harrison, with a presentation by Chief Information Officer (CIO) Bo Wandschneider, via MS Teams. It also included an interactive Q&A session, in which Wandschneider and various ITS managers and directors answered attendees’ questions.

Here are some of the session highlights:

Professional development
Harrison opened the discussion with updates on professional development and related opportunities, including:

    • Thursdays at Three: a new program launching in October. This will be 45 to 60-minute sessions where ITS employees share and discuss ongoing projects with their colleagues.
    • LinkedIn Learning: The license has been extended for the next year. U of T staff and faculty are encouraged to take advantage of this resource for skill development or to focus on new areas of interest. Completion of a certificate can be documented in your human resources records.

IT@UofT Strategic Plan
Wandschneider confirmed that we are making progress on the IT@UofT Strategic Plan. “I’m really happy to see that, even with COVID, we’re delivering on many of the things that we talked about doing pre-COVID.” He also mentioned that the department is working on an annual report and assessing whether there is a need to refocus some goals, based on the impact of COVID-19.

Challenges
The biggest challenge over the past few months has been — and continues to be — the general uncertainty in the community, says Wandschneider. “We’ve been extremely agile over the summer; we’ve all been able to switch gears and evolve. You’ve accommodated a myriad of requests on ridiculous timelines. You’ve shown huge creativity, resilience and energy.”

At the next ITS town hall, Mladen Stojanovic will provide insight into what our budget looks like going into the next year.

Remote learning and teaching
During the Q&A session, Harrison answered questions about which tools are being used for virtual engagement and explained that there are three main webinar tools in the Academic Toolbox being used for classes: Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom and Teams. There are also online virtual labs, which use programs like Labster and other simulations. Both the U of T Scarborough and Mississauga campuses have virtual lab licensing plans in place now for the coming academic year.

On the usage numbers for the Alibaba Cloud Enterprise Network (CEN), Wandschneider called it a “real success story that is benefiting the students in China.”

Return to work
The majority of ITS staff will continue to work remotely over the fall semester. The limited number of staff who are returning to campus either have specific jobs that require them to be on campus or have submitted a special request to do so. Staff are instructed to speak to their manager if they have questions around returning.

Staff members returning to campus will receive a welcome kit containing hand sanitizer and U of T branded masks. In office areas, there may be plexiglass barriers, hand sanitizing stations and signage. Anyone returning is encouraged to fill out the self-assessment form called UCheck.

Feedback survey
Thank you to everyone who attended this event and provided feedback via the post-event survey. Results of this survey showed that 78 per cent of respondents found the content highly or somewhat relevant and are interested in participating again in the future. Survey feedback suggestions will be taken into consideration for future events. Stay tuned for the next town hall invitation.