IMS department services technology for alternative learning
MIKI HARKINS Web/Social Media Editor
The IMS department encompasses Audio & Visual (AV) services, Web Development and Infrastructure. AV services include setting up microphones, speakers, projectors, cameras, etc., as well as staffing events such as convocation. Web development designs and maintains Bethel’s various websites. Infrastructure is responsible for the networks, software and servers that run Bethel’s systems, and maintaining the computers on campus.
The IMS department also hires students to work the Help Desk, which on a typical day they may receive requests for help on any number of many different issues. The department is usually busiest around the beginning of the fall semester and the end of spring. During the academic breaks, IMS typically does maintenance or installs new systems that require a longer period of downtime. This year, however, has brought many new challenges to the department due to COVID-19.
“This past Spring, prior to (and during) the shutdowns, IMS staff scrambled to accommodate technology requests. The majority of these requests were to enable working and learning from home for faculty, staff, and students. The additional cost of equipment was especially challenging due to Bethel’s budget crunch. Once the majority of requests were taken care of, the IMS department transitioned to primarily working from home. With most of the department off-campus we were unable to undertake some planned summer projects and maintenance,” Director of Information and Media Services Adam Haag said.
The need for social distancing has led the department to make special modifications to some of the larger venues on campus so that in-person teaching may still happen.
“This year, we have very few events that need AV services (due to social distancing guidelines). Instead, AV and IMS are responsible for the classroom technology we have deployed in Memorial Hall, Krehbiel Auditorium, the Chapel, and the outdoor tent. We set up and take down equipment for each class in those venues. This has kept us on our toes as changes occur often according to COVID-19 color status,” Media Services Coordinator and Technical Director of Theater Damon Klassen said.
The most recent struggle with the technology on campus deals with the bandwidth across the two internet connections.
“The increased usage of video conferencing has definitely had an effect on this. The lack of server storage space on our network has been an issue for some time, however the necessity for recorded online material has made this a critical issue. We are in the process of obtaining a new storage system that will have 4x the amount of space we had before,” Haag said.
The age of the technology on campus affects the network speed because the equipment is either at capacity or is missing key features. This limits what can be done to expand the network until replacements are made.
“Recently however, IMS has focused efforts on improving the student experience. Special attention has been given to updating the networking equipment in the residence halls, the in-classroom computers, and the internet connection in general. Our goal is to put the best we have in front of and in the hands of students, however there are still areas that need improvement,” Haag said.
Network switches have been replaced in Haury and new ones will be coming to Voth soon as well. The Mods already have updated switches. Recent maintenance by our internet provider has also helped to improve Bethel’s internet connection. To improve the signal coverage, one might suggest simply that more access points be deployed, but this would not be the best solution for Bethel because the current equipment would actually just slow it down.
“It would be unwise to expand upon either the Warkentin Wi-Fi network or the rest of campus without addressing the crucial need to unify the Wi-Fi networks into one modern system that has vendor support and is itself manageable and expandable. In essence, Bethel needs to completely revamp its Wi-Fi infrastructure and expand coverage across campus. This is a very costly capital project. There is an upcoming ‘Engage the Future’ capital campaign. Part of the plan for this campaign is to devote dollars to technology upgrades – which includes Wi-Fi upgrades,” Haag said.
The IMS department has contributed a lot to making Bethel’s technology better, but their efforts take time due to the expenses. Over the past 14 months they have replaced more than 25 desktops on campus and have obtained over 30 laptops.
“We are committed to making technology experiences the best we can. We appreciate the Bethel community’s patience and understanding as we work to improve technology across campus,” Haag said.
Klassen and Haag both encourage students interested in technology to apply for a campus job in the IMS department working the help desk or to apply for a job with BC AV if interested in audio/video production.