The Division of Information Technology (DOIT) at Long Beach State made major readjustments in spring 2020 when a sudden transition to online learning created a challenge for students who lacked their own technology to complete the semester.
CSULB students were forced to transition to remote learning in a matter of days in March 2020 when the campus closed due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. This created a sense of uncertainty for students who needed to access their online classes but did not have the necessary resources to do so.
DOIT, with the help of other campus organizations, was able to distribute 1,500 laptops and 3,000 hotspots to students in need.
The IT department also received federal support through the one-time federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), Coronavirus Air, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), as well as other general funding.
Bryon Jackson, the assistant vice president of Information Technology Services, praised the university for working with the IT department to fulfill students’ basic technology needs.
Jackson’s department collaborated with the Division of Student Affairs to help distribute laptops through the technology loan program, and the Chancellor’s Office provided negotiation deals on behalf of the department.
“The Chancellor’s Office got involved and said, ‘Well, if the entire campus is in the same situation, let us go to Dell, let us go to HP, let us go to Lenovo. Let us negotiate better terms on behalf of the campus,'” Jackson said.
Jackson worked with inner departmental groups as DOIT changed course to prioritize students’ access and adaption to remote learning.
DOIT has been on track to meet the SMART Campus Initiative, a goal set in 2017 to implement technology platforms that will make campus services and online learning more accessible for students and faculty.
The initiative originally focused on implementing services like data storage, SMART map, and Cloud-Based-Email (Office365). When the campus closed in March 2020, the initiative shifted to negotiating for laptops and establishing WIFI routers so students had access to online learning.
Jackson said students who qualified for financial aid or financial aid grants were less likely to afford the technology they needed.
“That’s the first group we targeted,” Jackson said.
While many of the Smart Campus Initiative items are nearly complete, the initiatives are still evolving. According to Jackson, the DOIT’s goals will shift depending on the technology demand needed by students.
As Jackson and the department prepare for the semesters ahead, he hopes to make it easier to access courses and create swift Wi-Fi connections.
“The goal is to hopefully learn the lessons we had this semester and make it even easier as those come back next semester,” Jackson said, adding that the number of students on-campus next spring will be greater.
The Division of Information Technology has walk-in support on the fifth floor of the University Library. Students can also get help by calling (562) 985-4959 or submitting a support ticket through the online helpdesk.