How IT is working to keep the college online

Austin Community College's Information Technology (IT) department continues its work to support the college's response plan for the evolving situation regarding the COVID-19 virus.

Even before the college's decision to suspend all nonessential, in-person work, IT began preparing for a possible partial or complete transition to remote operations. Since ACC moved to a telework model, IT has rapidly developed, tested, and deployed solutions to enable ACC employees to complete their core job functions remotely and to support direct services for students in a variety of areas.

IT's approach consisted of four key elements essential to its offering of a productive and reliable telework model:

Communication & Training
IT created an ACC Virtual Workspace website containing detailed instructions and videos to assist faculty and staff and to help them adapt to the change. More technical tips and "how to" videos are being developed aiming at cultivating an effective remote work model.

To support the shift to remote work, IT recognizes that it needs to first shift its support model from desktop support to remote support. Live technical training has been provided to over 500 employees via WebEx. Additional on-demand, closed-captioned video training sessions were also made available to all employees.

Existing Solution Updates & Modifications
Regulations, telework, and other factors related to COVID-19 required IT to make extensive updates and modifications to existing solutions and processes, including updating the ACC online course schedule application, electronic faculty evaluation application, and core processes in our enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions and supporting applications.

IT continues to execute the approved ACC Technology Master Plan and has made considerable progress. Some projects had to be delayed or postponed to meet college needs or to enable remote solutions required by the ongoing pandemic crisis.

Remote Technology Solutions
The use of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) was part of the Technology Master Plan and was scheduled for early 2021. IT successfully delivered a solution to support secure virtual desktops over the web for 3,000 staff and faculty in March of this year after returning from spring break.

IT also completed the following:

  • Made voice and video conferencing available.
  • Deployed integrated "softphone" capabilities that allow call center staff and others to answer student and staff calls from ACC's infrastructure remotely.
  • Worked with other departments to provide over 300 ACC employees with ACC laptops, and additional employees with internet hotspots.
  • For students, IT worked with other departments to assist with student loaner laptops.
  • Expanded wireless internet to select campus parking lots, offering students without reliable internet access a method for completing their course work.

Securing Data Access & Compliance
With the use of VDI, all ACC data and transactions remain isolated and contained within the college's network, therefore satisfying compliance requirements.

Additionally, the deployment of a new Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) solution — part of the Technology Master Plan — was expedited to enhance remote login security and prevent unauthorized access.

Other Projects
IT continues to make progress on replacing its longstanding ERP, Ellucian Colleague, with Workday, and Ellucian Recruit, with a new Salesforce CRM solution. ACC IT has performed substantive analyses in preparation for Workday's implementations and met with current higher education Workday clients for information sharing.

In March 2020, IT formally recommended Collaborative Solutions, Inc. as the college's Workday implementation partner/systems integrator.

The first phase starts in June. It will include a formal strategy and project kick-off meeting with the executive team, discovery meetings, and defining the overall project governance and strategy map.

IT is also assisting with the development of MyACC for Faculty, which should be released in the coming months. MyACC for Staff is also planned for a later date.