IT adjusts to increased demand due to online classes




By Ben Blakney, Reporter

The EWU online transition has affected everyone, student and faculty alike, whether they wanted it or not. As the campus settled into its new ‘normal,’ resources such as Instructional Technology have catapulted into the frontlines as everyone tries their best at tele-education.

Jeff Healy is the senior manager of Instructional Technology and Design at EWU. Thanks to the pandemic, the services they offer have altered quite a bit.

“(Service requests have) gone up, I’d say exponentially,” said Healy. “What we’ve found is that we have a lot of new folks that we haven’t necessarily directly supported in the past or haven’t actually crossed our path, historically … So, it has gone up dramatically.”

Healy then expanded on the details of their newly increased workloads.

“The numbers would bear out that we probably are dealing with a larger number of folks,” said Healy. “And we’ve just started to get the numbers in where we can kind of reconcile that … when you’re connected all day long like that, and like I say, for the most part, all of my folks are connected all day long in this Zoom support session there, you’re basically being deployed continuously throughout the day.”

Instructional Tech is the department that acts as a go-between for students and faculty. Any technologies involved in that informational exchange are headed up by Instructional Tech. Services like EWU Canvas and Panopto are also provided with their help.

“We also would handle phone calls from students and staff as questions about sort of related technologies would come in.” -Jeff Healy, Senior Manager of Instructional Technology and Design

With a new record high demand for their services, Instructional Tech has taken similar steps to other departments such as CAPS and PLUS to move their services online. Healy and his team have also taken to Zoom to provide as close to the same service as before.

“What we’ve done is we have the whole team login to an ongoing Zoom support session,” said Healy. “We manage it pretty well 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday … that has become our primary support modality.”

This new COVID-19 working environment brings with it a new set of norms that many people are still figuring out. A typical day for Instructional Tech in January was wildly different than a typical day now in May.

“We would have everyone answering phone calls from faculty as they come in,” said Healy. “We also would handle phone calls from students and staff as questions about sort of related technologies would come in.”

Healy then elaborated on how he and his team deliberated phone calls and services amidst the many subsections of Instructional Tech, including business analysts and instructional designers.

Instructional Tech also has not noted any significant slowdowns or throttles to the Canvas service, even with the greatly increased traffic. Zoom, however, tended to have more issues. Earlier in March, the Cloud Recording resource provided by Zoom became bogged down and began to falter, but the problem has since been remedied, according to Healy.

Instructional Tech has been hard at work adapting to the new norms affecting the entire EWU population. On the way out, Healy provided his closing thoughts:

“You know, I think the only thing I would just sort of re-emphasize is that it’s been gratifying to see how willing people have been to sort of grasp these new types of services,” said Healy. “So we get some folks in here that aren’t comfortable necessarily living in this digital world. And they’ve been willing to leap in as needed. And I think there was some fear early on, people did not want to change the way things have been going, you know, from a face-to-face world to a more digital world. But it’s great to see. I think right now everybody’s pretty well hopped on board, and both on the student and the faculty side. And it seems to be working really well for people at this point.”