Core to our values – people of ITS

The ITS leadership team celebrated the end of a successful year and upcoming holiday season with 140 people at the Faculty Club. People that made and continue to make a difference at the University of Toronto. They contribute to making life – teaching, learning, research and working together – easier, more efficient and highly-connected for staff, students and faculty. From ACORN to Quercus – ITS delivered in 2018.

In between the festive treats and catching up with the ITS team, the subject of values came up. Actually, I asked the questions to those gathered. What ITS value resonates with you? What behaviours support these values? And contrarily, what actions are outside of our values? Definitely food for thought as we venture into the next leg of our IT@UofT journey in the new year.

Earlier this spring, we shared the values that were developed by the ITS team. We continue to see them demonstrated at U of T and ITS in particular, and they matter. I continue to receive positive feedback about the people in ITS, and most of them tie back directly to our values. The values seem to resonate, are straight-forward and can be used as a compass. The following quote simplifies this: “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” – Roy Disney.

The ITS core values are:

  1. Service and Operational Excellence
  2. Creativity and Critical Thinking
  3. Teamwork
  4. Shared Leadership
  5. Culture of Learning

Learn more about ITS core values and watch the 2018 year in review video montage to see our team living their core values every day.

If you have stories to share about you or your team demonstrating the ITS core values, reach out to, and don’t be shy about calling out people who live into their value – use the True Blue award or our team site.

Thanks for a great year – it is an incredible pleasure to work with such talented and dedicated people.

Fun, food and festivity! The Information Technology Services (ITS) team celebrated its annual Holiday Social on Dec. 13 at the U of T Faculty Club.
Pictured clockwise from top: CIO Bo Wandschneider reflects on 2018, congratulating ITS staff on their many accomplishments; party prep; holiday mugs represent the five ITS core values; staff enjoy appetizers and socialize at the Faculty Club party.

Community voices shape IT@UofT

Since the summer, we have been focused on leading the Information Technology Services (ITS) strategic planning process. The plan, once developed, will forge the direction for IT at the University. Strategic objectives and initiatives will focus on ITS. The vision, pillars and guiding principles are resonating with the rest of the University community. They can use this to help shape their own direction and plans to better enable alignment. We are hearing a strong desire to work more collectively and collaboratively and the notion of IT@UofT is resonating. That is why it was so important to hear the voices, experiences and stories from the divisional/faculty IT partners, valuable colleagues in other areas across all three campuses, in addition to our community within ITS.

Over the summer, we used the visioning input from over 250 members of the community to lay the foundation of our vision, pillars and guiding principles. During the fall term we vetted this at multiple meetings and a roadshow of sorts (information sessions, consultations, community engagements, steering committee meetings, workshops and more) with members of the community including stakeholders, staff, students and faculty. To date, 613 people participated in the myriad of phase 2 – community consultation activities. The best part of this stage was meeting people and hearing their fresh ideas about the vision, strategic pillars and guiding principles that form the foundation of the plan.

It was also a wonderful learning experience with 72 digital moments/stories created. These stories looked three years into the future and projected how IT can help enhance life for students, staff and faculty. I recently presented the concept and workshop, along with Gayleen Gray, AVP IT at McMaster University, to our CIO peers across Canada and it was a lively session with positive feedback and a desire to create their own digital moments. I’m eager to share our digital moments with you. Stay tuned.

Transparency and two-way communication is key to the work that we do and provides insight in how we can do better and continuously improve. This phase was no different. Throughout the process we welcomed questions and feedback and community members’ thoughts on envisioning the future.

We polled participants after each session and survey results were encouraging and positive. A few highlights include:

  • The digital stories part was especially good. It was nice to see active contributions from some of the less vocal members of the community.
  • I think the overall approach was helpful and engaging – especially in this stage of the process. I am interested in seeing how this evolves over time and what kind of consensus is reached.
  • Kudos on really engaging activities to get us thinking about the language and vision of the process. Really enjoyed them, especially the digital moments one.
  • I think these are great relationship building exercises that help disrupt stereotypes and strengthen community.

Community members have spoken up! Sue McGlashan, information security architect in ITS said, “A wonderful side effect of the ITS strategic planning exercise has been the concurrent breaking down of silos between “us” and others at U of T while together with them we develop our vision and outline strategic pillars and initiatives. I think ITS is now seen as a key partner in helping other units at U of T achieve their goals.”

Julia Smeed, innovation projects officer, Student Life added, “I appreciated that Laurie and Bo took the time to consult with all of the stakeholder groups and I was pleased to be invited to participate along with my colleagues. The interactive activities planned as part of the session helped us to understand the strategic vision for IT at the University and to provide meaningful feedback from our perspective.”

Initial survey results in early November showed that 85 per cent of those asked agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I am engaged and excited about the future direction of ITS.” Similarly, 86 per cent of participants agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I found this session valuable and engaging.”

Next steps include ITS leadership meetings, steering committee meetings, a few more community meetings and finalizing the vision, strategic pillars and strategic initiatives.

Thanks to those who have participated along the way, your involvement is crucial to the success of this plan.

Learn more about IT@UofT and upcoming phases and milestones. I’ll be sure to provide updates as the plan progresses.

Goal achieved – Quercus is live

September 1st arrived. With that date, students were preparing to move into residence and go back to class, faculty were setting up their courses and the tri-campus was full of life and activity. September 1st also signified a milestone in the Information Technology Services (ITS) division and the rest of the University community – the transition of all courses from Portal to Quercus.

After three years of planning, extensive community consultation and comprehensive training Portal was decommissioned and Quercus went live. The change was significant and it happened without major issues. There were a few minor technical matters and they were promptly addressed by the Quercus team and Instructure, our valued delivery partner. As new issues arise, we will continue to respond and improve the service.

Key to the accomplishment of this initiative was community engagement. People from all areas of the University were consulted, trained and engaged. This effort was truly institution-wide and touched every corner of our three campuses.

Over the course of this project:

  • 191 training sessions were lead or co-lead by the Center for Teaching Support and Innovation.
  • 109 centrally supported content migration clinics took place.
  • Additional training sessions were run by over 60 technical and training leads embedded in 23 divisions.

Over the last 10 months a total of 47 divisional meetings and information sessions took place reaching 833 people. There were 46 departmental meetings with 925 attendees. Regular update emails (20) were sent to 100 key contacts across the U of T.

The project had:

The reach of Quercus is significant with over 71,000 students logging into about 4,700 courses, with over 4,500 individuals in instructor roles –all within the first week of classes.

There are still training opportunities available until the end of 2018 and I encourage you to sign up for a webinar.

The word in the community is positive and people are happy with the new tool. In an anonymous survey, early adopters said:

  • Much easier to move from one course to another.
  • Very clean and easy-to-use.
  • Love the syllabus feature and it updates the calendar – and students love the calendar.

Social media comments are optimistic too!

Overall, the move from Portal to Quercus was a success. On October 15th, over 50 project and steering committee members came together to mark the achievement. To learn more about this project visit the website.

Quercus core team and steering committee

Core team and steering committee members celebrate at the October 15th, celebration luncheon.

A top priority – safety and security

Cyber Security Awareness Month - October 2018 - Security matters every day

The safety and security of our students, staff and faculty is a top priority at the University of Toronto. That concern and commitment to safety and security extends far and wide to the online and cyber realms.

Being aware and practicing sound online behaviour and use helps keep us all safe, information secure and systems free from viruses, malware, phishing attempts and more. Next months’ Cyber Security Awareness Month campaign will help spread the word about just that.

One of the campaigns’ underlying themes is that online and information security is not a once a year afterthought or saved for a special occasion. But something that is embedded into everything we do – every day.

I encourage you to get involved this October and beyond.

  • Read articles and blogs to learn more
  • Participate in our survey/polls to voice your opinion
  • Follow us on social media to stay in the loop
  • Read handy tip sheets
  • Take a chance at your luck and enter contests
  • Attend talks and events

You can also get personalized online safety recommendations when you check out Security Planner by Citizen Lab.

Please stay tuned to our website, social media channels and digital signage for updates, details on how to participate and more information as the campaign rolls out.





Cyber Security Awareness Month - Coming Soon - October 2018

IT @ U of T

“But we have always done it that way.” How often have you heard that phrase at the university, especially about Information Technology Services (ITS)? Take a step back and think about it. My response to that statement might be – “The status quo is not good enough for a world class institution like U of T.” We have heard your voices too, loud and clear, and many of you are in agreement. Positive change, a new direction and clear strategic priorities are in order.

Earlier this summer ITS launched the strategic planning process. As a first step we engaged a few hundred people including students, staff and faculty and asked them what they envisioned for ITS and IT at U of T three years in the future. Vision development is one of the first steps in our process. This new plan will shape our work, highlight our priorities within ITS and IT at the university for years to come.

Through feedback, discussions and expert advice and conversations with various committees, including a steering committee, the vision is being crafted and honed. Whenever I go into these processes of wide consultation I always am concerned about diverse opinions and our ability to consolidate them into something meaningful. A good colleague of mine always reminds me “trust the process”. Sure enough, in all the great feedback we have received there is a huge amount of commonality.

You may ask what our vision for the future is. I will be launching it later this fall. So please stay tuned.

Although, I can give you a preview now – it’s about people. Core to everything we do at ITS, is our people. People within our division and partners throughout the university community and beyond. Without them, our applications, systems and services would simply not exist. Our collaborative projects and solutions would not take flight.

And we want to hear your feedback about the process so far and the vision once we share it.

Visit our webpage often to keep up with the process and learn more about our community consultations and next steps.