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IT was well-prepared when CBS closed down… until unforeseen challenges arose

(Illustration: Shutterstock)

CBS’ IT department had spent weeks before the actual lockdown testing different solutions for working at home – in case CBS had to close. Since then, they have helped move campus life online while preventing system overloads. Now, IT is fighting hackers and figuring out how to hand over computers and phones to new employees.

Coronavirus |   01. Apr 2020

Anne Thora Lykkegaard


“For a couple of weeks, we talked about the risk of Denmark locking down like China and Italy. The first time I heard about it, I thought to myself ‘Nah, that’s not going to happen.’ But it did,” says Niels Jespersen, Chief Information Officer for the IT Department and continues:

“When the lockdown was announced, however, we were actually well-prepared, as we had already tested solutions for working from home and planned how to make them work. During the first couple of days, we received reports from other universities and the Agency for Governmental IT Services (Statens IT) that their IT systems couldn’t handle the pressure, but ours worked just fine.”

Since CBS closed down its campuses on March 12, the IT Department has been busy supporting staff with moving their work and teaching online, as well as finding solutions for running about 20,000 students’ exams online. The 60 employees and student assistants are also working from home, as CBS’ IT systems must be cared for around the clock. And especially in times of crisis.

CIO of IT, Niels Jespersen and Head of Support, Victoria Vorting do most of their meetings via Microsoft Teams. And although it works just fine, they have started to miss the normal meetings on campus. (Photo: Anne M. Lykkegaard)

“During the first two days of the lockdown, we received more than 300 calls on everything from setting up Microsoft Teams to getting a multifactor authenticator. We had expected that, so we had 13 people answering the phones. This resulted in a waiting time of just three seconds before the calls were taken,” says Victoria Vorting, Head of Support at CBS, over Teams from her home.

IT has five different locations on CBS campuses where employees can easily connect with each other and talk about how to handle different issues. And not only did the coronavirus cause CBS staff to work from home, it also made hackers a lot more active, explains Niels Jespersen.

“The risk of hacker attacks is higher, and if something happens, we deal with the issues remotely,  sitting apart at home. So this is a high priority right now. Luckily, we haven’t had any issues of hacking other than the kind we normally see, which include mail spam, CEO fraud, phishing and such,” he says.

Suddenly, ALL teaching and exams had to move online  

IT is usually involved in making online teaching work in some capacity, but IT currently has allocated more employees to support the Teaching and Learning unit, as the need for support has risen significantly.

Teaching and Learning hosts webinars on how to move teaching online, what tools are available and for what purposes, and people from IT help out with technical issues that have occurred during the transition.

IT is also heavily involved in moving exams online, explains Victoria Vorting. Three employees from IT, in collaboration with the Study Administration, teachers and CBS Legal, are working on solutions for making oral exams function online.

“In terms of finding solutions for the exams, it has sometimes felt like jumping on a treadmill at full speed,” says Victoria Vorting.

She explains that some online oral exams have already been held, but since then, CBS has announced that all its remaining exams this semester will be moved online. And that is a whole other ball game, as IT only planned to run about 1,000 exams before everyone returns to campus.

“With the first solution, a person from IT would verify both the student’s identity and that they are alone before granting access to the online ‘room’ with the examiner and censor. But as we don’t have enough staff to provide such a service, we are currently discussing a new solution with someone else running the checks,” says Niels Jespersen.

No printer problems – but what about new employees?

Now that everyone is working from home and CBS campuses are deserted, some normal IT issues have vanished.

“Well, we have no technical issues in the auditoriums or classrooms now. And no one calls about printer problems. So these kinds of usual daily jobs have gone. Instead we spend much more time supporting people with online tools for teaching and working,” says Victoria Vorting.

And having empty campuses provides the IT people with new perks.

“Once in a while, we have to upgrade the network at CBS, and we try our best to find a time when we inconvenience staff and students as little as possible. But with the halls and offices empty, we can now make upgrades whenever we like. So last Thursday, we upgraded Kilen without anyone noticing,” says Niels Jespersen.

But then a whole new challenge emerged.

On April 1, new employees will start working at CBS, but as everyone is working from home, there will be no one to hand them their equipment – such as computers, keyboards and whatever else they need.

“We have actually discussed this issue with other universities’ heads of support. Some decided to meet outside and put the equipment somewhere that the new employees could pick it up while keeping a distance. While others have had the equipment sent by courier,” says Victoria Vorting and continues:

Many of our people think that what is going on right now, from an IT perspective, is a lot of fun

Victoria Vorting

“We value the importance of getting new employees off to a good start. However, not everyone will get new equipment. In some cases, we help them to set up their own gear and log on to CBS servers. In other cases, departments have found used computers for their new colleagues.”

In general, Victoria Vorting and Niels Jespersen are satisfied with the online transition.

“This transition has exceeded our expectations. I’m really satisfied and impressed by people’s willingness to work together,” says Niels Jespersen.

Victoria Vorting adds:

“I know this might be a peculiar thing to say, but many of our people think that what is going on right now, from an IT perspective, is a lot of fun. We have regularly conducted tests for precisely these kinds of situations, and I think we have certainly risen to the occasion.”


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