Let 2021 be a year of celebration
It is hard to fathom that we are already finished two years of the McMaster IT Strategic Plan. When you set out to develop a Strategic Plan, you recognize that there are no guarantees that the structure or vision will come together easily, layered with an uncomfortable element of the unknown around the ability for the Plan to spark interest, let alone inspire action.
Fortunately, we had a highly engaged community, eager to participate in the practical and sometimes whimsical processes we undertook to share our ideas and hopes for future technology-fueled experiences here on campus. The concept of Digital Moments was born, and from those narratives and images, so too was our McMaster IT Strategic Plan. I am immensely proud of the plan as a concept, with its Connected, Seamless and Transformative pillars, and even more proud that we have travelled these last two years together as a McMaster community, turning our ideas and digital moments into concrete initiatives, projects and outcomes. And we still have a full and demanding road ahead.
Do we still have the energy to keep going?
After the past 10 months, it would be fair to assume that energy may be waning for many good reasons. Using one of the overused colloquial phrases of our time, we didn’t have a global pandemic of the century on our IT Strategic plan bingo card! And yet, we, and more importantly YOU, our McMaster IT community, didn’t miss a beat. Not only did you keep delivering on those big strategic initiatives, you added pandemic preparations for remote everything: learning, research, teaching, support, projects, operational activities on top of what were already very full plates. You knocked it out of the park for the last 10 months.
Continuous delivery in the face of overwhelming circumstances takes an abundance of energy, resilience and ‘stick to it-ness’. And it is only possible to keep the momentum going if we stop to take a deep breath and remind ourselves just what we are capable of by celebrating our successes. To that end, we want to take a breath with you now and remind you of the key themes and accomplishments that YOU, the McMaster community, accomplished over the last ten months. You are often unsung heroes, but let me warble for a bit:
Under the umbrella of pandemic reaction and pro-action:
- Shifting almost everything online and supporting faculty and staff to do so with limited time and resources – the variables and challenges were many with amazing outcomes!
- Teaching and Learning: enhancing Avenue to Learn access, implementing and integrating Teams and Zoom teaching, Camtasia, LightBoards, onsite teaching studios, online proctoring
- Sourcing and implementing captioning tools to support accessibility needs across many online environments
- Creating a custom COVID-19 Reporting Tool for the University
- Research bookings through RHPCS custom app development
- McMaster-branded online ordering (mcmu.ca/selectmeal) for those in isolation to select their meal options and get them delivered from Hospitality
- The Office of the Registrar implemented AwardSpring to move from primarily paper-based applications and processes for student aid and awards to a new platform used campus-wide. Over 10,000 applications have been completed to date
- The Office of the Registrar also introduced and offered the digital diplomas option to all June 2020 and Nov 2020 graduates
- The Library promoted the use of Echo 360 and supported the move to remote use of Echo 360 – saw a 206% increase in cumulative number of users from Sept 2019 to Sept 2020, as well as doubling the number of lecture captures and uploads when comparing Fall 2019 to Fall 2020, even with moving fully remote
- The Library also implemented Ares, an e-reserve system that allows libraries to automate their course reserve services and provide students with around-the-clock digital access to these materials
- Network network network: Expanded VPN access for students, staff and instructors, Alibaba advanced VPN for our China constituents, hot spots for students, outdoor wireless and more
- Remote work technologies: Microsoft Teams, Zoom and advanced collaboration tools including Live chat and Chatbot capabilities to support students and staff
Keeping operational activities moving ahead:
- New enhanced websites from areas such as University Technology Services and the Faculty of Humanities
- A continued commitment to supporting McMaster’s ongoing work to improve the digital environment and to raise the caliber of McMaster’s online presence through MacSites (a WCAG 2.0 Level AA web template system)
- The Privacy Office conducted numerous privacy impact assessments, including several solutions related to online proctoring and consulted with several areas including Student Affairs, Faculties, and instructors on challenges to privacy compliance in online learning environments
- With support from the Strategic Alignment Fund (“SAF”), the Faculty of Science has been converting existing blended learning courses into a more accessible format to ensure adherence to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA. The Faculty of Science has also partnered with the Equity and Inclusion Office to create an Accessible Documents webinar series
- The McMaster IT Security team increased IT and cyber security awareness for the university and resolved a myriad of information security issues with campus partners
Continuing to support the McMaster IT Strategic Plan:
- Grad admissions and undergrad admissions projects: Slate
- CRM using Microsoft Dynamics 365 (MCE & Engineering)
- Integrated Jira activities
- McMaster Data Sharing Proof of Concept
- Identity & Access Management enhancements
- Mosaic Rapid Release features including the implementation and use of GT eForms
- Parchment – a digital version of the transcript
- Virtual Pink Folders: the conversion of paper documents to digital form and workflow
- Digital Spaces initiatives to support campus population reporting
- Microsoft 365 email and calendaring project
- SharePoint Proof of Concept(s)
- The launch of the McMaster Women in Tech Changemakers Series
- IT Student Advisory Committee – second year
And that list isn’t even half of it, I am sure. If 2020 was a year of uncertainty, fear, reactivity and overwhelm, we have proven we can overcome. Thank you.
If we give ourselves permission, we can make 2021 about seeking and finding joy, connection and appreciation with and for each other. We can achieve that goal by allowing ourselves to celebrate our accomplishments and successes together… whether by sharing your experiences with colleagues at the IT Forum, through the showcase or networking elements, or submitting ideas to the McMaster IT newsletter, or participating in a virtual hallway chat, or volunteering your project to be featured via the CTO site… we are continually seeking ways to share and celebrate your success, and our successes, in meaningful ways. We want to celebrate with you!
Let’s also acknowledge that YOU, and all that you do, are part of a larger whole. We, each of us, cannot do this work or achieve our successes alone. It takes a community of amazing and dedicated individuals, just like our McMaster IT Community – and our McMaster community as a whole – to reach this level of WOW. Thank you. Exhale. Warbling complete!News Category, Uncategorized