UBC IT Annual Report2017 — 2018


We acknowledge that UBC’s campuses are situated on the traditional, unceded territory of the xwmə0–kwəy’əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səl’ilwəta (Tsleil-Waututh), and on the territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation

How Technology Impacts UBCMessage from the CIO

Jennifer Burns is UBC’s Associate Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, Photo by Paul Joseph / UBC Brand & Marketing

The theme of our annual report for 2017/18 is about partnership and innovation – how we support, enable and partner with faculties and departments for success. Technology is no longer the domain of IT professionals alone. The pervasive nature, new models of delivery, and enhanced capabilities means that in order to achieve successful outcomes we need our community to be increasingly engaged in selecting and implementing the technologies needed to support their work and learning, and driving more innovation. Thus how we do things is also shifting to ensure more inclusive governance and greater engagement in technology decisions. Our role in IT is to identify the possibilities, create the frameworks and work with our community to successfully implement and integrate new ways of using technology to support teaching, learning and research.

The services highlighted in the report demonstrate the tools we use every day to support our work, and are often in the background invisibly, such as the 36 million spam email blocked from reaching university inboxes annually. This year, some of our major initiatives included renewing major systems across campus, creating a shared understanding of data, and increasing privacy and security of information. We are also supporting and building the capabilities of our people to enable us to continue to support changing technology. Although these multi-year, multi-stakeholder initiatives are large and complex endeavors, they will form the foundation for the future to support the objectives and goals of the UBC Strategic Plan.

Service excellence is about incremental improvements every day, and in order to prepare our IT environment to deliver the technology capabilities that UBC needs now and in the future, we are advancing our maturity even further. In the coming year, we will align our activities and priorities with the new UBC Strategic Plan, Shaping UBC’s Next Century. We are laying the foundation for UBC to move into the next level of excellence, and together, with our IT community and the UBC community at large, creating UBC’s future.

I would like to thank our community - our partners at UBC and the broader higher education sector, and all the IT staff across UBC - for their continuous engagement and trust. Your commitment and support are what make IT successful at UBC.


Jennifer Burns Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer,
The University of British Columbia

How technology impacts students at UBC

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Students on Main Mall, photo by UBC Brand & Marketing

We’re changing the way students learnVirtual Reality Field Trip

UBC IT strives for an active learning experience for students, introducing technologies to enhance classroom interaction, and providing additional options for access and flexibility. This year, we collaborated with students, faculty and teaching fellows from UBC Geography, UBC Studios staff, and industry experts (MetanautVR) on the Stanley Park Geography Virtual Reality Field Trip.

Field trips are a necessity for geography students to enhance their knowledge and understanding. However, study sites are not always easily accessible, nor is funding available. With an effort to make experiential learning more accessible, the Stanley Park Geography Virtual Reality Field Trip is a proof of concept to demonstrate students can learn in a fully interactive virtual space. When wearing VR goggles, users are immersed in a 3D spatial environment of Stanley Park with interactive elements where they can travel through time and space and explore the history of one of West Coast’s most iconic parks.

“We are moving away from the typical traditional means of classroom teaching and exploring other ways of using technology to enhance learning both inside and outside of the classroom,” says Loch Brown, Senior Instructor, Geography Department. To encourage others to explore this groundbreaking work, the programming code is now openly licensed and shared publicly for other educational institutions to adapt and use in teaching and learning.

More information available at http://eml.ubc.ca/projects/geography-vr/

We are moving away from the typical traditional means of classroom teaching and exploring other ways of using technology to enhance learning both inside and outside of the classroom.

Loch Brown Senior Instructor of the Geography Department

How technology impacts faculty at UBC

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One on one discussion with professor, photo by UBC Brand & Marketing

We’re keeping UBC’s data safeCybersecurity Best Practices

Cameron Smithers and Clare Kiernan are part of the Privacy Matters Working Group in Applied Science, photo by Paul Joseph / UBC Communications & Marketing

With the rise of sophisticated cyberattacks, privacy and information security awareness has never been more important. However, building a security-focused culture takes time and effort. UBC IT has a system-wide initiative in place, Privacy Matters, which works with members of our community to improve IT security practices at UBC. One example of this is working with the Faculty of Applied Science to create a Privacy Matters Working Group in order to help elevate cybersecurity awareness in the Faculty.

Prior to the formation of the working group, the Applied Science faculty and staff completion rate of privacy and information security fundamentals training was just six percent.

Staff from the Office of the CIO within UBC IT worked with members of Applied Science to build awareness of the fundamental risk that cyberattacks posed. Through communications, in-person information sessions, metrics reporting, promotional material and monthly meetings, the group worked to incorporate privacy and information security awareness into the culture of their staff. In the future, the faculty plans to begin integration of the Privacy and Information Security Fundamentals training into the onboarding of all new hires.

After just one year, the Faculty has seen a substantial increase of the training completion rate, which rose from six percent to 55 percent completed.

“At the Faculty of Applied Science, we are the stewards of a large amount of sensitive and personal information,” says James Olson, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science. “The Privacy Matters Working Group has managed to put privacy and information security top of mind. As a result, we are beginning to see a real shift to a more security-focused culture in our Faculty. I am very proud of the continued progress and dedication I have seen from our community.”

We are beginning to see a real shift to a more security-focused culture in the Faculty of Applied Science.

James Olson Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science

We’re making our research more accessibleResearch Tri-Agency

For several years now, Canada’s Tri-Council agencies* have been developing a policy on research data management, placing greater responsibility on public institutions, like UBC, and researchers who receive research funding to implement best practices on data management. The policy recommends requirements in three primary areas: institutional data management strategies, researcher data management plans, and data deposit.

UBC has been noted as one of the leading institutions in Canada in responding to these new requirements due to the early collaborative efforts between the VP, Research and Innovation, the Library, and the Office of the CIO. Led by UBC’s Advanced Research Computing (ARC), the coordinated response to the impeding policy has resulted in a greater level of preparedness for the UBC research community. “At the heart of our collaboration is the shared desire to best serve UBC’s research community, and to uphold UBC’s research excellence,” notes Susan E. Parker, University Librarian, adding that many UBC librarians who are experts in research data management have been highly sought for conference presentations and to represent UBC at provincial and federal committees.

A number of resources and initiatives are already in place to assist researchers to implement effective data management plans including:

  • Storing of research data on the WestGrid Data Storage Network or the UBC IT Storage Grid
  • Depositing research data in UBC’s Abacus Dataverse, an open source application to publish, share, reference, extract and analyze research data; and,
  • Partnering with the Canadian Portage Network to build research data services and infrastructure for a national data management platform (DMP)

A draft of the policy was circulated on campus for feedback at the time of this Annual Report (Summer 2018). It is expected that the policy will be launched by the Tri-Council agencies by 2019.

*Canada’s three federal research funding agencies – the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

At the heart of our collaboration is the shared desire to best serve UBC’s research community, and to uphold UBC’s research excellence.

Susan E. Parker University Librarian

How technology impacts staff at UBC

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UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre in Agassiz, photo by UBC Brand & Marketing

We’re improving the way we workRenewing Our Administrative Systems

UBC is embarking on a multi-year journey to transform its academic and administrative support processes and system environments for the entire UBC community. Replacing our current 25+ year-old legacy systems, the Integrated Renewal Program (IRP) will implement one core platform that will facilitate most Human Resources, Finance and Student Administration interactions, providing a more unified experience for students, staff and faculty.

After an intensive analysis of the university’s administrative system needs, and a thorough review of market solutions this past year, the university has chosen to partner with and implement Workday as UBC’s core administrative platform. Workday will allow integration and streamlining of complex processes, and the use of consolidated, real-time institutional data, while providing a simple, intuitive user experience.

With continued support from the university, UBC IT is partnering with the functional areas of the institution to support and enable this critical initiative from a technology perspective. By 2020, the UBC community will begin to enjoy the benefits of a more reliable, secure, fully-integrated core enterprise solution that will build a strong foundation for our future.

By simplifying processes and bringing them into an intuitive, integrated system solution, we will free the UBC community to spend more time on our strategic priorities.

Professor Santa J. Ono President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of British Columbia

We’re creating a unified understanding of UBC’s informationUniversity Data Model

sʔi:ɬqəy̓ qeqən (Double-Headed Serpent Post) Brent Sparrow Jr., Musqueam UBC Point Grey campus, photo by Hover Collective

Consistent, reliable data is critical to the university to be able to use reporting and analytics to make timely decisions. At UBC, all business processes and their corresponding data are collected and analyzed daily. For this information to be trustworthy, it needs to be standardized and properly defined.

The University Data Model (UDM) is a logical representation of UBC’s information domains, starting at the highest-level (person, curriculum, locations, assessments, etc.). The UDM represents the data and information required by the institution to support its processes, develop reports, and provide a common understanding of the data itself.

Leading the work behind the UDM is the Enterprise Data Governance team under the Office of the CIO. Extensive consultation with technical and non-technical stakeholders representing various areas of UBC has been a critical first step in collecting feedback on data definitions and working toward an agreement on accepted values for all data elements.

Since work began on the UDM in 2017, 96 stakeholders have been involved in developing the UDM, and a collection of critical data elements has been identified to better understand, compare, and exchange information in an accurate, timely and consistent manner. As a result, the University reflects a shared vocabulary, standards and definitions.

“The UDM is a living model,” notes Marcela Hernandez, Chief Data Officer for UBC. “Whenever changes to UBC’s business processes require additional data to be collected, the UDM will adapt to these changes.”

Marcela Hernandez Chief Data Officer

UBC’s Investment in IT


Governance and Investment Planning

This year, we focused on maturing our IT governance and investment planning which will ensure that we are focusing our efforts on the initiatives and activities that best support UBC’s strategic objectives, and that UBC is transparent in the investment decisions being made.

Institutional Spending On IT

How Are IT Investment Decisions Made?

Policy 126 (Capital Projects, Capital Purchases & Internal Loans) ensures there is appropriate oversight for UBC’s capital expenditures. To complement this, the CIO’s Office has developed an Investment & Prioritization Process which ensures: transparent decision making, institutional support and ownership for IT activities, and compliance with UBC’s governance mandate.

  1. 1

    Step 1

    IT need is identified on campus

  2. 2

    Step 2

    Faculty or department (or UBC IT) submits proposal

  3. 3

    Step 3

    Proposals are analyzed and scored

  4. 4

    Step 4

    Decision is made by appropriate body*

    *decision rights are established in Policy 126. Governing bodies include the CIO, IT Advisory Council, UBC Executive, and UBC Board.