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Smith College A Culture of Care

Update On Digital Support, April 3, 2020

Update On Digital Support, April 3, 2020

Dear faculty and staff,

Greetings from the IT Digital Support team, and congratulations to those of you completing the first week of remote learning. I write with some Zoom best practices based on the help tickets we received this week, a recap of our support options, and a final note on media coverage of Zoom privacy and security. As always, please send in a request through https://sophia.smith.edu/covid19-digital-support/ if there’s any way we can help with your remote work or teaching.

  • Best practices for Zoom: If you are recording your Zoom sessions, please choose cloud recording, as that makes it easier to generate transcripts and post recordings for playback. Make sure that your Zoom meeting is set to require authentication. If you’re teaching, your students should first go to https://smith.zoom.us and log in there, before clicking on the Zoom link for your class. (Especially helpful if you’re using breakout rooms.) If you have questions about Zoom security, check out our Securing Your Zoom Meeting documentation. If you need help with any of this, send in a help request through our COVID19 Digital Support site, and we’ll help you figure this out.
  • Requesting support for virtual events: The “request help” link on the COVID19 Digital Support site now includes a way for you to inquire about support for events. We’ll sort event requests into two categories: 1) those that need limited to no support, with fewer than 250 attendees; and 2) those that are for larger groups or need technical and logistical support to run effectively. We will have limited capacity to support events in the latter category, and so we will review those requests with the CIRT and the President’s Cabinet for prioritization.
  • Workshops and training: The week of April 6th, we’ll offer sessions on administering exams, making and sharing recordings, Moodle basics, Zoom basics, Zoom advanced, and a course tuneup session. We’ll also have 1:1 pedagogical consultation slots open. Sessions are posted for faculty and staff for the week of April 6th. Almost all of our workshop decks are posted on the digital support site’s page about Supported Tools, with Instructions, Workshop Materials, and FAQs.
  • Zoom assistants: Our Zoom assistant program continues for those of you who would like a little extra help in your synchronous classes. As before, we’d like to get your requests two business days in advance, so we have time to match student workers and volunteer staff to your class. Click here to apply.
  • Consultation for office/department technology needs: We continue to offer consultation for staff in offices and departments that need help adapting their business practices to our remote work mode. This is an option in the help request form linked off the COVID19 digital support site.

Once again, I will close with a few notes about Zoom, which continues to receive a lot of media attention, some of which is alarmist. Given the explosion in its use in the last few weeks, Zoom is under unprecedented scrutiny. This has resulted in complaints about security and privacy, and Zoom is being very responsive to those concerns, including the announcement of a 90 day focused effort to address those matters systematically. (This is a far more agile and responsive posture than we often see from tech companies.) This 90 day period will include more frequent updates to the Zoom software client, so please accept those updates when you are prompted to do so. We in Smith IT will continue to monitor the status of Zoom’s response, supported by higher education and information technology professional organizations.

Smith has had an institutional license of Zoom for the past two years, after a rigorous exploratory review including faculty and staff. It is our belief that Zoom is safe for you to use. There are a few key practices to be aware of, which many of you are already using and which are summarized in the best practices section above. By virtue of our institutional license, we have control over many of the features you may read about in the popular press. For example, Smith has never enabled the Attention Tracking feature that allows a meeting host to know if you are looking at something else during a Zoom session. Zoombombing is a real phenomenon, but it can be addressed with a few simple ways of protecting your session. (See the Securing Your Zoom Meeting instructions, and send in a help request if you want to consult about managing access to a public event.) If you have any further concerns, please let us know by requesting help through our COVID19 Digital support site.

For those of you who have read this far, thank you! We know you are all working very hard, and we are glad to help out however we can.

With best wishes from the extended IT Digital Support team (representing colleagues from ITS, CATS and the Library),

Samantha