While Dawson College remains closed, essential work continues. The Director General, the Academic Dean, the directors, the deans, managers and many employees are hard at work to develop a comprehensive plan for the resumption of activities.
This week (week of March 23), no classes or activities will be held. The Director General and the Academic Dean are in regular contact with Quebec’s Ministry of Education and with their counterparts at other CEGEPs. The plan is to work together to develop an integrated approach.
Dawson’s Information Systems and Technology (IST) Team got into high gear as the pandemic was declared on March 11. They retrieved laptops from classrooms and prepared computers to lend out to employees. More than 60 laptops have been loaned out so far and there are about 100 in inventory at the moment. Many employees were already equipped to work from home prior to the pandemic.
Well prepared for working from home
“We were well-positioned at Dawson for this,” said François Paradis, Dawson’s Director of IST. “Before this began, we already had over 400 people working with VDIs (virtual desktop infrastructure) and we had 60 Zoom licenses. VDIs make the work from home experience virtually the same as at the office. You are literally looking at your work computer in the office and you have access to all the files, on the desktop and on the servers.”
Dawson has a lot of experience providing and supporting the use of Moodle, a Learning Management System, and even supports partner colleges John Abbott College and Heritage College.
Facilitating the continuation of activities
Currently, IST offers a number of services to facilitate the continuation of activities from home: Zoom for video conferencing, Horizon for virtual machines, Office 365 and Teams. IST has a resources overview page with more information for employees.
François says that many high tech companies are offering more support because of COVID-19. “For example, Microsoft is offering daily webinars for teachers about using Teams in Office 365, and even direct access to their specialists to ask questions,” he said. Another example is Zoom, which is offering daily webinars about their platform and tips for successful work from home strategies.
François is happy to share that Adobe’s Creative Cloud is now available free for everyone. It is a collection of 20+ desktop and mobile apps and services for photography, design, video, web, UX and more. For details about this offer, as well Microsoft and Zoom extended support, please refer to the resources overview page.
Since the pandemic was declared, IST managed a rush of demands for help and tools, trained the whole Help Desk team in Zoom troubleshooting, acquired 100 more Zoom licenses and is working with the Academic Administration to develop solutions should the school closure be extended beyond March 30.
Registrar’s Office sending admission offers
The first priority for IST last week was setting up the Admissions team from the Registrar’s Office to carry on processing applications from home.
“On Friday, we made sure everyone had the tools to work from home,” said Carmela Gumelli, Dean of Academic Systems. “It was a little chaotic for everyone. We borrowed laptops and made sure everyone had an internet connection at home.”
The Admissions/Advising team consists of about 20 staff members. They are continuing the work of processing more than 11,000 applications.
“When we left, we had already sent out 3,728 offers of admission,” Carmela said. “To date, we have now sent out almost 4,500 offers of admission. Our focus this week has been to come up with a Plan B for interviews, auditions and other application requirements for particular programs.” All plans are now in place.
“Our Application Centre and everyone on our team is online and our work is proceeding as usual,” Carmela said.
IST also ensured that Dawson’s Payroll Team members are functional at home. “It is a priority for the College to pay our employees and we had a pay scheduled this week. When the possibility of leaving the College became real, I moved quickly to ensure that my team was equipped with laptops and everything to work from home,” said Pascahl Scott, who as Dawson’s Director of Human Resources oversees payroll.
Gearing up for high demand for online tools
The IST team is gearing up for a surge in demand should the information technology infrastructure become the only infrastructure of Dawson College for the next weeks and months. Purchases are being moved up and solutions are being identified for putting the whole College online.
“Our focus will be on supporting teachers,” François said. “We want to take away the technical worries so that teachers are able to focus on the pedagogical elements.”
No decisions have been made yet about how the semester will continue. Access to the College remains restricted.
Keeping the students and employees up to date is a major priority for the College. Multiple updates have been shared since the beginning and they are all archived on our COVID-19 update page: https://www.dawsoncollege.qc.ca/news/coronavirus/