By now Gonzaga University has settled into its third week of distance learning, and students are slowly starting to get back into a routine.
During spring break and right up until March 23, the entire university worked overtime so class curriculums could be adjusted to be delivered via online learning.
In addition to professors, there were countless university departments who put in hours of work to make sure that the students’ transitions would be as seamless and stress-free as possible.
GU’s Information Technology Services (ITS) played a central role in making the switch from in-person classes to distance learning. Cassandra Slagg, the director of ITS, said in an email that overall the transition went smoothly for the department, and it worked hard to make sure student and faculty transitions went just as easy.
“Along with instructional design and delivery we assisted with providing Zoom training to faculty,” Slagg said. “We extended our technical support hours to accommodate the needs of all faculty, staff and students that were adjusting to the new online teaching, but also for staff who were now working from home, and for some it was a first.”
There was no way for any university to be fully equipped and ready to handle a crisis such as this one, but ITS already had many of the necessary technologies and resources in place to support distance learning.
Spring break and the days that followed were just as confusing and chaotic for staff and faculty back at GU as they were for the students at home. Borre Ulrichsen, chief information officer for ITS, said the university informed the team during the first week of break that the school would be moving completely to distance learning beginning March 23. This gave the ITS department a little over a week to make the transition happen.
“We would have loved to have more time, but given the circumstances, we are grateful for the way our community came together to make the best of a situation and prepare us for this new reality,” Ulrichsen said.
Slagg wants students to know ITS is as ready as ever to answer any questions or concerns students may have in regard to the new distance learning set up. Although ITS can no longer offer in-person consultations, staff is still available by phone or email, and the department has created numerous reference pages with tips and tricks on navigating online learning.
The multi-factor authentication is something that Slagg and her department gets asked about frequently, especially now that students are back home and no longer on the GU Wi-Fi. ITS recommends students download the Microsoft Authenticator app, to help make the multi-factor authentication less cumbersome.
As far as the transition on the students’ end of things, the overall consensus has been a few bumps in the road, but overall a fairly painless process. Sophomore Maria Carter credits her professors’ communication for making the process straightforward.
“I think Gonzaga is doing their very best,” Carter said. “I’m definitely disappointed to not be at school learning in classrooms, but I think Gonzaga has provided a lot of guidance and opportunities for students transitioning to online school.”
Carter is a dance major, so her distance learning process has been different from other GU students. Trying to figure out how to provide dance classes trough Zoom has been a challenge, but one that the dance program was happy to figure out.
“Transitioning to dancing on Zoom in my living room has been a huge change, but my professor, CarliAnn Bruner, has been very helpful in providing us classes and virtual dance opportunities,” Carter said.
In regard to figuring out how to time manage and stay on top of everything whilst no longer in an academic environment, Carter said this has been one of the biggest challenges for her.
“I have found it super hard to be productive at home and have been struggling balancing my Zoom meetings with my parents’ meetings, because they are both working from home,” Carter said. “It’s hard to stay productive because my ‘at home’ schedule has changed so drastically from my schedule at school.”
For some tips and tricks on how to maximize productivity at home, check out Brooklyn Popp’s article “How to stay productive in your at-home office during quarantine.”
Gonzaga’s ITS can be contacted by phone at (509) 313-5550 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.