Rescuing spring term: The unsung heroes of tech support

Oregon State University, College of Engineering

Newswise — As Oregon State University scrambled to prepare for home-based remote teaching in the spring term, the faculty turned for help, in great numbers, to the information technology staff. They needed advice about setting up remote desktops, troubleshooting virtual networks, Wi-Fi connectivity, and guidance for conducting classes through Zoom, the remote conferencing system that has quickly become a household word.

Leanne Lai, a network research assistant in the College of Engineering, is one of the IT experts in the College of Engineering who are rising to the challenge as technology “first responders,” working around the clock to smooth the transition to remote teaching, remote meetings, and remote living.

In the opinion of Gabor Temes, Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Lai went above and beyond when she helped him set up a system at home to teach ECE 627, an advanced course about data conversion.

“Leanne spent many hours getting things ready so that I could teach remotely,” Temes said. “I had practically none of the necessary instrumentation in my home, and I was starting almost from scratch. Leanne found the right components in the computer lab. She hauled the equipment to our house, installed it, and trained me how to use it. I couldn’t have done it without her help.”

Lai considers her efforts for Temes as nothing more than doing her job.

“I’m just glad my colleagues and I can help to make the whole experience more pleasant,” she said. “I brought over a laptop, a 24-inch monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, and a few other things. Meeting with Gabor and his lovely wife was a lot of fun. We set up Zoom, and Gabor learned how to use it, along with how to operate a remote desktop, which can be challenging for anyone.”

One wrinkle was the somewhat shaky internet connection at Temes’ house, about half a dozen miles from campus. So Lai installed a Wi-Fi hotspot that so far has provided a stronger and more reliable signal.

“I’ve taught this class before, so it’s very familiar to me. However, I spent 10 to 15 hours just setting up the technology and learning how to teach the course in this new environment,” Temes said. “I imagine the people who helped me put in at least that much time and effort.”

About 15 students are registered for the class, which typically draws about 10 students.

Temes has delivered several lectures with no hitches so far, and students have reported that the lectures were clear and understandable. He plans to add the capability to show slides and other supplementary material through Zoom.

“This is an ongoing story, and I hope there won’t be any surprises as we get used to these new systems,” Temes said.

According to Lai, the overwhelming demand for IT solutions has continued unabated. “We are constantly helping faculty and students with remote connectivity through tools like Citrix Workspace, VNC, Remote Desktop, and Zoom,” she said. “Helping with instruction is our top priority, and we’re doing the best we can to answer questions. This has been a team effort on all fronts, and everyone I work with is working very hard to support remote learning. The College of Engineering leadership has been very supportive and generous in providing the necessary equipment and resources. This is all so new, but once we get through it, we’ll be so much wiser.”




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