2021: Year in Review

Posted on Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

Well, we’ve done it again! Another year of excellence amidst a storm of uncertainty. Never in my career has an entire organization (and really, the entire world) had to navigate so much change, both personally and professionally. I am both inspired and proud of just how well the U of G IT community has persevered these past two years. 

The list of accomplishments and work well done is a long one. We completed the IT Strategy – a huge feat with so many people involved – and we moved the needle on many key projects that will have a positive impact on the future of our University. We launched new services to better meet user needs and made important improvements to existing services that elevate the experience for all.

As you read about this great work, remember that there are teams of people behind each initiative, people who care deeply about the mission of U of G and who are dedicated to delivering the highest level of service to our community. 

Supporting Remote Work  and Pandemic-Related Initiatives

Classroom web conference technology deployment:

OpenEd’s Classroom Technical Support (CTS) team, with the assistance of CCS Network Infrastructure group, was able to successfully deploy platform agnostic web conference technology in 42 classrooms. This included the deployment of a managed network switch in each classroom using the Cisco Meraki Cloud, allowing for the installation and configuration of Vaddio AV Bridges, Sony PTZ cameras and Sennheiser Dante beamforming microphones. These technologies allow for effective web conferencing in the selected classrooms, allowing professors to deliver an in-person classroom experience to remote learners.

Zoom support from OpenEd:

Zoom continues to be one of the main tools for remote teaching and learning, with OpenEd provisioning 1,500 Zoom Pro Licenses supporting instructors and teaching assistants.

Zoom Transfer Tool:

OpenEd partnered with CCS to enable a new Zoom Transfer Tool which allows instructors to transfer copies of their Zoom recordings, transcripts and chat files from the Zoom Cloud to their personal U of G OneDrive account.

Support for remote meetings and events: 

CCS successfully supported more than 27,000 monthly Teams users and 32,000 monthly meetings and events, including major events like the Spring Academic Open House, President’s Breakfast, Fall Preview Day and more. In addition, more than 10,000 Webex meetings were supported, with 700+ unique hosts and 70,000 total participants.

Teams meeting room pilot:

In partnership with Microsoft, CCS is piloting a Teams Meeting Room, exploring new hardware that aims to provide a seamless meeting experience for both in-person and remote attendees in on-campus meeting spaces. Through the integration of cameras, audio systems and digital whiteboards, we expect to see an improvement in the use of meeting and collaboration spaces.

Continuation of Gryphon’s Nest program:

Gryphons Nest, an online community, was launched in Fall 2020 to support all first-year U of G students unable to live in residence because of the pandemic. Created and led by Student Housing Services, the Gryphons Nest working group developed a curriculum of programs and initiatives to help first-year students with their personal and academic transition to U of G. https://news.uoguelph.ca/2020/08/gyrphons-nest-virutal-community-connecting-u-of-g-first-year-students-living-off-campus/

Student Housing quarantine booking process: 

Student Housing created an online booking system to allow international students arriving from outside of Canada the ability to book their quarantine stay in residence. Student Housing partnered with Hospitality to provide a 14-day quarantine stay with food delivered to their doors daily.

IT support for U of G vaccination clinics:

The University has held two separate mass vaccination clinics for the public – the first from March to August 2021, and the second more recently in January 2022. The CCS Client Productivity and Network Infrastructure teams were instrumental in the technology setup for both clinics. With limited lead time, they sourced the required laptops and printers, configuring them for the clinic’s needs including Microsoft Intune for secure operation. They also ensured ample wireless coverage to help enable a seamless experience for staff, volunteers and patients alike. 

Proof of vaccination status systems:

Multiple groups at U of G collaborated under tight timelines to develop a system for staff, faculty and students to provide proof of vaccination when coming to campus. This was a significant endeavour that included data collection, data modeling and reporting. All necessary stakeholders and decision-makers participated in a ‘situation-room’-style approach to design and implementation.

Ongoing IT Initiatives Supporting the University

Launch of U of G IT Strategic Plan:

The official launch of the IT Strategy took place on December 10, 2021, after a two-year engagement process. The plan charts a path forward with high-impact initiatives that will both innovate and simplify the user experience at U of G. https://uoguelphca.sharepoint.com/sites/ITStrategicPlan/

Customer-facing knowledgebase:

CCS launched a customer-facing knowledgebase to allow self-serve searching for IT support information. https://ithelp.uoguelph.ca/home

Creation of a digital ID for Student Housing residents:

Students in residence can now show their digital ID – quickly showing staff who they are and where they live. Together with Hospitality, the teams worked to integrate photo IDs and incorporate a secure login, thus providing a safe and efficient process enhancement.

Bulk purchasing program:

CCS implemented a “bulk purchasing” program for endpoint computers and related peripherals to realize cost savings and process improvements. Internal orders are now filled from on-hand stock instead of placing individual small quantity orders.

Professional and Career Development Record (PCDR):

This tool, launched by the Experiential Learning Hub, formally recognizes a student’s involvement in on- and off-campus professional and career development activities, most notably experiential learning. The PCDR is available to all U of G students and displays curricular and co-curricular activities that have been validated by the institution. It is designed to help a student reflect on their transferable skill development and encourage them to make connections between their experiences and their personal, academic and career goals. https://www.uoguelph.ca/experientiallearning/pcdr.

Laptop loan service:

Classroom Technical Support (CTS) and CCS have partnered to provide an enhanced laptop loan service for our campus community. While the CTS team has offered an equipment rental service for staff and faculty for some time, this new service focuses specifically on laptop loans and has expanded to include U of G students. The student need for a laptop loan service was amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic and this service aims to meet that need. https://uoguelphca.sharepoint.com/sites/ccs/SitePages/services/Laptop-Loan-Service.aspx

New cloud-based security awareness training solution for students:

This refreshed and improved training program replaces the legacy module in CourseLink.

Online Computer Store:

CCS has launched a new online computer store for U of G staff and faculty. This service is intended to simplify and expedite the purchasing process for new laptops and computers, ensure device security across the University, leverage quantity discounts from approved suppliers, and promote the use of a standard hardware fleet to ensure streamlined support. https://uoguelphca.sharepoint.com/sites/ccs/SitePages/store.aspx

New CourseLink integrations: 

OpenEd has provided new CourseLink integrations that provide greater capacity to meet the institution's commitment to teaching and learning and student-centric experiences. They include:


The University of Guelph-Humber’s Accessible Learning Services unit worked with OpenEd to integrate the RegisterBlast tool with CourseLink, allowing students to quickly book test times and locations.

>Student Feedback Questionnaires (SFQ):

As part of the SFQ project, this integration was installed to provide a pop-up within CourseLink when students have questionnaire tasks to complete.

Integration of Ridgetown with Guelph Student Housing system:

Bringing Ridgetown Student Housing processes onboard the Guelph campus’ system allowed for the replacement of Ridgetown’s previous paper-based application and payment processes with a fully online application and interac e-transfer payment collection process.

Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (OGPS) leverages GryphForms to automate PDF-based processes:

With the recent creation of 14 electronic forms to replace PDF versions, OGPS has now had more than 5,000 electronic form submissions with tens of thousands of signatures from across the University. This has reduced paper use as well as PDF tracking requirements for department administrators, students and faculty supervisors.

Program Management Office (PMO):

The offerings of the PMO have extended significantly in 2021, with visibility into all U of G IT projects. Approximately 60-80 IT staff meet each month to discuss IT projects and ask questions, provide feedback and achieve synergies.

Next-generation U of G websites:

Both Student Experience and OVC were early adopters of the “content hub” model for next-generation U of G websites, both launching refreshed websites in 2021. The content hub model enables content creators from across the University to work together on U of G content in a single location and to repurpose that content for multiple uses and channels like websites and social media. The content hub is a new technology stack, but also a new way of partnering between organizations to deliver content.

CCS SharePoint Migration:

CCS migrated its website from Drupal to SharePoint as part of a larger initiative to create a U of G intranet. This allows for a separation of public-facing content intended for prospective students and industry partners, from internally focused content (aka an intranet) intended for faculty, staff and enrolled students. This provides a more streamlined user experience for all those seeking U of G information. CCS chose to migrate its site to serve as a case study for other departments considering SharePoint. Visit the CCS SharePoint site here: https://uoguelphca.sharepoint.com/sites/ccs

WiFi 6 deployment in residence:

Ensuring a positive student experience with technology in U of G residences has always been a top priority. This year, CCS deployed WiFi 6 capable access points in student residences. WiFi 6 is the next generation of WiFi, resulting in significant benefits for end user, including greater coverage, reliability and bandwidth.

Inclusive language in IT:

An important initiative was undertaken to begin phasing out non-inclusive IT terminology from the University lexicon. Terms such as master/slave, blacklist/whitelist, etc., have long been part of the IT/coding vocabulary. This task was taken up by a small working group made up of IT personnel from across the University as well as representatives from the student body and from Diversity and Human Rights. The group has now published a list of terms and appropriate replacements and has asked the IT community to discontinue the use of non-inclusive terms in newly-created documentation and to change/flag these terms in existing materials. https://guides.uoguelph.ca/guides/style-guide/inclusive-language/inclusive-it-language-replacement-terms/

New and improved cyber security policies:

The creation and updating of several policies took place this year. These include a University Encryption Policy, Inactive Accounts Policy, a statement on the use of Zoom and web conferencing software at U of G, IT Asset and Data Disposal Guideline, and the SSL/TLS Certificate Standard.

Human Resources Management System:

This complex, multi-year project was a priority for 2021. The broad, multi-stakeholder team worked through the functional and technical design of the new system and completed future state mapping of multiple business processes. Critical technical work continues alongside data migration and important testing to ensure the integrity of the systems, the data and associated business processes. This project has and continues to be a strong and successful collaboration between Human Resources and CCS. https://www.uoguelph.ca/hr/staff-faculty/human-resources-management-system-project

Student Information System Refresh Project:

Several impactful projects have been completed under the SIS Refresh program (https://www.uoguelph.ca/registrar/sis-refresh):

>Launch of the Guelph Transit Student ID Card:

This project has eliminated the old bus pass stickers in favour of seamless electronic access, where eligible students can now simply tap their U of G student ID card on transit fare boxes when boarding Guelph Transit buses.

>Launch of the Student Planning tool:

This new module within WebAdvisor allows students to plan their programs, schedule and enrol in courses, and track their progress towards completion.

>Launch of a new academic calendar:

A new, modern, mobile-friendly calendar with an improved look and functionality including advanced search features.

>Development of an online transcript ordering tool:

This tool allows current and former students to order and pay for transcripts online.

>Enhanced payment options for international students:

These options include international bank transfers, credit cards, e-transfers and e-wallet payments.

Student Feedback Questionnaire (SFQ) project:

In the spring of 2021, OpenEd implemented and piloted the new student feedback tool that replaces the previous tool, CEVAL. University-wide rollout began in Fall 2021. https://opened.uoguelph.ca/instructor-resources/student-feedback-questionnaires--sfq-

Test Scoring Replacement project:

With an identified need to provide a test scoring replacement for the current test scanning service, this project is now in the final stages of the Request for Proposal process. It is anticipated that a pilot will begin in early 2022 with a University-wide rollout in the fall. https://www.uoguelph.ca/cio/it-governance/test-scoring-replacement

Institutional Data Strategy: 

As a result of vaccine mandate reporting requirements, the University chose the Institutional Data Strategy team (along with Institutional Research and Planning and CCS resources) to lead the COVID-19-related data collection and reporting. More than 50 reports and dashboards have been created to share data with stakeholders for a variety of purposes, with strict data governance in place. Through this process, the team was able to build new data partnerships and key data pipelines, as well as expand their knowledge of related tools and technology. Additionally, with further efforts to build out the Data Strategy team this year, key resources are now in place to begin operationalizing the Institutional Data Strategy. https://irp.uoguelph.ca/data-statistics/institutional-data-strategy-initiative

Research Information System:

In December 2021, the University engaged a consultant who is now in the process of preparing a Request for Proposal to acquire an enterprise-wide, integrated research information system. This system will improve business processes and automate manual processes for the management of research proposal submissions, research awards and contracts, animal care services, human ethics, biohazards, radiation safety and conflicts of interest. In February 2021, the Office of Research Services (ORS) in collaboration with CCS, launched an internal custom-built application/database for the management of grants and contracts data. This new application is used by ORS staff and enables reporting on research data for ORS senior leaders, college research administrators, campus communicators and beyond.

Expense Claim System:

Another year of hard work continues to move this project forward. The team has conducted feedback surveys with the U of G community for their help in shaping the new system, connected with departments to discuss change management, began work on a test site to configure project specifications and kicked off focus group sessions with the extended project team.  https://www.uoguelph.ca/cio/it-governance/expense-claim-system

UNIWeb - Faculty eCV tool replacement:

This project, which began in late 2020, will replace Sedona, a legacy eCV tool, with UNIWeb by Proximify. UNIWeb is an intuitive, user-friendly research tool that not only streamlines the creation and maintenance of academic CVs resulting in an enhanced Tenure and Promotion (T&P) experience, but also provides an option to enrich the public online presence for academic units and researchers using interactive web pages and networking features. Significant progress was made this year, including: comprehensive and broad stakeholder engagement including soft-launch testing with more than 150 volunteers; design and testing of a new framework for T&P review committees using SharePoint; and the development of a strong, multi-pronged training and support strategy for faculty and staff members. The team is planning to launch UNIWeb across campus in April 2022.

Research Financial Services Task List:

U of G Financial Services, supported by CCS Enterprise Applications, launched a totally revamped Research Financial Services Task List in 2021. This application allows for a more fulsome integration with other U of G systems and provides improved performance, reliability and usability for Financial Services, in particular Research Financial Services staff. Progress this year included a complete redesign of the application, integration with Oracle EBS, better security related to role-based access, as well as improved administration, auditing, filtering and searching capabilities

I want to thank this strong IT community for their resilience, perseverance and dedication to the U of G community – evident in the quality (and quantity!) of the initiatives listed above. The years ahead will be exciting as we continue these important projects and begin putting resources in place to deliver on the IT Strategic Plan.

As we slowly begin to make our way back to providing in-person service, I feel hopeful that the stability we crave is on the horizon and the daily social interactions we’ve missed will once again abound. There is much work to be done, and I can’t imagine a better team with whom to do it.

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