Published September 14, 2020
2020 is a year that defies comparison.
Each fall, we review the data behind our IT services at the University at Buffalo to paint a picture of the upcoming semester and our incoming cohort of students. While we traditionally compare these numbers to previous years, in 2020 this can prove unfruitful or overly simplistic (“Virtual meetings are up. Network connections on campus are down,” etc.).
Enabling collaboration everywhere has been an important part of UBIT’s strategic plan, and in 2020 our campus community leveraged the full potential of that effort.
UB has hosted nearly 17,000 meetings online in the first week of the fall semester alone, including virtual classes, using Zoom and Webex—a hundred-fold increase over 2019. Students watched 3.5 million minutes of lectures virtually using Panopto, and the amount of data stored in our cloud storage solution UBbox doubled to 1.7 PB.
This year at UB, we “flipped” our ratio of in-person/online classes. Before 2020, roughly 10% of our course offerings were online; this Fall, 84% of faculty surveyed said they are teaching at least some element of their classes online.
We laid the foundation for this dramatic shift with our strategic plan, and by coordinating our Coronavirus response across campus while listening to faculty, who told us the best ways to help them transition quickly.
For the first time in recent memory, this fall we registered fewer devices connecting to our network—roughly 68,000 devices, compared to 109,000 the year prior. And yet, our wireless network traffic ticked up slightly, to 49,400 GB per minute on average.
Our connectivity networks are a critical utility, now more than ever. But our customers aren’t necessarily using it the same way. That’s why we built out services that cater to those connecting from off campus, like My Virtual Public Site, which provides access to UB public computing sites remotely.
In August, we introduced a new student-focused printing solution at UB. Importantly, the 40 new print kiosks distributed around campus are touch-free and reduce crowd density compared to our previous, centralized solution.
While the COVID-19 pandemic influenced our timing, this project is the result of several years’ worth of engaging customers to design a print system that is both more convenient and environmentally friendly.
Students have printed over 176,000 pages this semester, and with each print job they’ve reduced waste by printing on sugar cane fiber that would have otherwise been discarded.
Like the introduction of Zoom last spring, our new printing solution is an addition to our portfolio that will continue to add value to our customer experience well beyond 2020.
This year has brought no shortage of challenges for all of us. But in our best moments, we’ve found opportunities for lasting change that align with our strategic plan and the mission of the university.
When we talk about “the new normal,” that’s how we should think. It isn’t about living in or adapting to a state of crisis, but leveraging opportunities today to improve our lives going forward. That optimism is an important part of what brings our new and returning students to UB this and every fall, and as always, we’re honored to be working with them.
J. Brice Bible is the Vice President and Chief Information Officer (VPCIO) for UB. UBIT is a service division at UB that provides enterprise technology leadership and guidance.