from the CIO

Technology is constantly changing and at an increasingly rapid pace affecting every aspect of our lives. These changes impact both the landscape at UBC and the higher-education technology domain writ large. In order to keep in stride with our institution and our industry, UBC IT needs to be adaptive, agile, and flexible, and capable of moving fluidly with the changes.

This year's annual report showcases our work in helping to support the University's mission and strategy and its role as a leading world institution. Key areas we focused on:

  • Improving the student, faculty, and staff experience
  • Operational stability and effectiveness
  • Information Security
  • Enhancing services for research computing

We have been able to add to our suite of over 90 campus services, provide dedicated support for research, enhance classroom learning, and provide an intense focus on information security, all contributing to an improved overall student, faculty, and staff experience at UBC.

This year, we also saw a transition in the CIO role, and I want to take this opportunity to thank Oliver Grüter-Andrew for his contribution and leadership during his tenure at UBC as CIO. I also want to thank everyone at UBC IT, and across UBC for their support during my first year and for their effort in achieving the accomplishments listed here. It is truly a partnership and collaboration and our activities would not be possible without the support of others across UBC and the broader higher education sector in BC.

I am excited to work with you all in the opportunities that lie ahead. The IT community at UBC is strong, capable and passionate, and together we will continue to propel UBC forward as a top tier higher-education institution on the world stage.


Jennifer Burns

Chief Information Officer

A Year
In Review

Enabling Teaching & Learning

27% 7484
Active courses on Connect
4% 51345
Active users on Connect
13% 51
AV systems upgraded in classrooms or learning spaces
 Increase from 2014

Helping Research Excel

6% 11042
Active users on Research Information Services (RISe) tool
346% 3592
UBC Survey Tool users
 Increase from 2014

Supporting the UBC Community

7% 48058
Email mailboxes supported
3% 15555
UBC phone numbers
2% 119357
Tickets resolved
8% 175
Websites supported
98% 9900
Terabytes of storage managed
 Increase from 2014

Keeping UBC Data Safe

50% 3510213
Average blocked messages monthly (including spam)
28% 4780
Encrypted workstations
 Increase from 2014

Just For Fun

Yoga sessions
Cups of coffee consumed
Pastries eaten
UBC IT Staff

Advanced Research Computing Support at UBC

Research Associate, Sunita Sinha at the Pharmaceutical Sciences building

Image Reference: Blazej, Robert G., Palani Kumaresan, and Richard A. Mathies. "Microfabricated Bioprocessor for Integrated Nanoliter-scale Sanger DNA Sequencing." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103.19 (2006): n. pag. Web. Figure 4. Copyright (2006) National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A.

UBC consistently ranks as one of the world's top research universities, implementing outstanding research that contributes to the educational mission of the university and creating an improved quality of life around the world. To support this high-caliber of research, UBC launched the Advanced Research Computing (ARC) team to meet the growing demand for digital research infrastructure, resources and services.

The ARC team is an institutionally dedicated group that provides support at no cost for researchers across all disciplines that have large data and computational needs. Essentially, this kind of research generates large scale datasets and makes use of advanced computing technologies, including high network speed, big data storage, data analytics platforms, and advanced visualization tools, to name a few.

ARC works in partnership with VP Research + International Office (VPRI), UBC IT, UBC Library, Compute Canada and other strategic partners to broaden scientific and technical support offered to researchers. Since the team started in 2015, ARC has engaged with several research groups to house infrastructure in the University Data Centre and provided pre-award consultations to determine IT needs required as part of research funding applications. Visit the ARC website to learn more about what opportunities are available.


Revolutionizing the delivery of mail in residences

Electronic mailboxes at Ponderosa Commons Residence building

A residential tower with occupant capacity of 1,152 should have resulted in a significantly large mailroom size. Miraculously, the mailroom for the newest student residence, Ponderosa Commons, only take up a small fraction of space in square footage due to the transition to electronic mailboxes.

As parcels are more commonly received than snail mail, electronic mailboxes are larger in size in comparison to traditional mailboxes to meet the demands of today's online consumerism. Modeled after corporations with an efficient and sustainable delivery system, such as Amazon, the system uses the concept of shared mailboxes. When a piece of mail or parcel comes in, tenants are notified and assigned to a mailbox that can only be accessed by the student's UBC card. Once mail is picked up, the mailbox is reassigned to a different recipient.

Based on the positive response at Ponderosa Commons, upcoming residences that will have front desk management will also have electronic mailboxes in place, reducing excess space and infrastructure costs to build individual tenant mailboxes.


Microsoft Office 365 free for UBC students

Political Science student, Emma O’Brien at Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre

Microsoft Office products are a necessity of life for university students in Canada and millions of people around the world rely on the software every day for creating essays, presentations, and spreadsheets. This year, UBC IT worked with Microsoft to offer all full-time UBC students the ability to install Office 365 at no cost. The free annual subscription comes with unrestricted access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other essential software for students.

Since the initial launch, over 21,000 students have downloaded the software and that number continues to grow daily. So far, offering free Office 365 software has helped students save over $1.2 million dollars and that number will increase to $5 million over a four-year term. UBC students can learn more and download the software at the UBC IT Software Downloads page.


Privacy & Information Security Management (PrISM)

Servers at the University Data Centre

Higher education institutions are often the target of data breaches, which not only affect the individuals whose personal information is exposed, but also the organization experiencing the breach. In order to move the university to a position where risk analysis and mitigation are embedded in policies, practices, and systems across the institution, the Privacy and Information Security Management (PrISM) program was launched in 2016.

The PrISM Program is a coordinated effort between Risk Management Services, Office of the University Counsel, and Information Technology with a mandate to educate and encourage staff and faculty to assign higher priority to privacy and information security. Through technology, maintenance, data mapping, training, and communications, the program is working to build a privacy and information security conscious culture at UBC.

Over the next few months, PrISM will be the driving force behind several university wide projects including a privacy & information security awareness initiative and online training for faculty and staff.


Supporting Student Learning

Third year Sauder School of Business student, Ben Stropky

Databases are used by virtually all businesses today, where they store and facilitate the analysis of large volumes of information, helping business owners make timely and relevant decisions. To help students understand the role that databases play in business, the Bachelor of Commerce Business Technology Management option requires students to take COMM 437, Database Technology. To ensure that students have practical experience, UBC IT deployed an enterprise-level Oracle data management platform to support the student learning experience. Students can securely access the database platform from their own computers, from any location, at all hours, reducing the dependency on a physical computer lab.

Feedback has been extremely positive. Sauder has agreed to fund support for the platform and is investigating broadening its use for other courses.

"I have provided a hands-on Structural Query Language (SQL) experience to COMM 437 students. UBC IT worked closely with me to plan, develop and deliver a unique service to my students...Students were extremely pleased with the Oracle SQL experience that they gained in the course."

Hasan Cavusoglu
Associate Professor, Management Information Systems Division, Sauder School of Business


UBC Okanagan Online IT Purchasing System

View of UBC Okanagan campus

To simplify and improve the purchasing experience for IT equipment, software and services at UBC Okanagan, a new purchasing portal called buyIT was launched this year. Prior to buyIT, faculties and departments of UBC Okanagan (customers) would request quotes through the IT HelpDesk ticketing system (also known as IT Management Database or 'ITMDB'). Using ITMDB, the process typically requires several emails or phone call exchanges to complete the purchase.

Accessing via Campus-Wide Login credentials, BuyIT allows customers to browse the catalogue, select and place orders on supported technologies online or request a quote for items not in the catalogue. Since launched, over 166 orders have been handled by buyIT. User adoption for this new system is steadily increasing. UBC Vancouver is also looking to implement this system in the near future. Further information on buyIT can be viewed on the UBC Okanagan knowIT website.

"The School of Engineering is a consistent user of the new BuyIT Online Purchasing System. I have found the system very user friendly and the follow-up information regarding the progress of the order very helpful."

Karen Seddon
Facilities & Finance Assistant, School of Engineering UBC Okanagan campus


Educational Media Support

Filming taking place at the One Button Studio

Video has become an integral learning resource, acting as a powerful delivery method for knowledge sharing. UBC Studios works with faculty members, teaching assistants, and student helpers to develop digital video and audio materials to support and enhance learning.

This year, with support from the Provost's Office and in collaboration with CTLT, UBC Studios has started a series of educational media support services including media consultation, access to studio facilities, as well as a virtual reality lab.

One highlight is the "One Button Studio", an innovative solution (based on a Pennsylvania State University design) to the sometimes-overwhelming world of multimedia production. In this studio, users can create multimedia content quite literally at the push of a button. Minimal setup time and technical knowledge is needed to operate this studio, as users simply step in front of the camera, prepare their notes, press the button, and start filming.

For more information about the One Button Studio, view a demonstration of the service.

"Thank you, the studio was much appreciated - It is well set-up, a supportive AV environment, simple and convenient to record high quality video lecture sessions."

Dr. Harry Hubball
Professor of Curriculum and Pedagogy


New UBC Survey Tool

Systems Analyst, Geoff Luk, using the UBC Survey Tool

Gathering feedback is a necessity in a strong research community like UBC. The UBC Survey Tool is the new solution launched to replace its former tool, Verint. Canadian-hosted with enterprise features through the vendor, FluidSurvey by SurveyMonkey, the UBC Survey Tool complies with the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), with data stored and backed up in Canada. Users can easily build surveys and forms, and track event registrations, with features such as logic and branching, and offline capabilities.

To ensure the selected solution was most suitable for the university, functional requirements were gathered from the community prior to selecting the vendor. Since launched, the tool has 3,592 users (which is a 346% increase from its former tool) and 11,742 surveys created.

Available to all UBC faculty, staff, and active students at no cost, users can learn more on the UBC Survey Tool page.


UBC Baseball Centre

UBC Varsity baseball player, Justin Orton

The new UBC Baseball Centre is the latest state of the art indoor training centre added to UBC's growing portfolio of leading edge facilities. Located in Thunderbird Park, the $3.5 million facility provides a heated and comfortable year-round training centre for UBC's varsity baseball team, as well as community sports groups, such as Baseball Canada.

To design an interactive training environment that is unique to UBC, the Audio Visual Team integrated HitTrax Technology to the centre's digital system. This technology provides virtual simulations of baseball stadiums and real-time statistics for athletes, enabling them to enhance their playing techniques. In addition to HitTrax, a wall of high definition flat panel displays and cameras for the batting cages and pitching areas were also installed in the centre to provide a more stimulating visual experience.

The UBC Varsity team managed a 36-18 (home) and 23-12 (away) record in their first year in the new facility and entered the 2016 NAIA West Grouping Baseball Championship as the number two seed.

"One of the major design concepts I wanted for the Thunderbird Baseball Indoor Training Centre was around cutting edge technology and AV systems. I'm a believer in facilities acting as memory builders for users… The AV and technology truly makes our building come to life."

Terry McKaig
Director of Baseball, UBC Athletics and Recreation


ELDAP Identity Management Tool

ELDAP project team: (Left to right) Anthony Winstanley, Hari Mailvaganam, Trevor Fong

With over 2,500 students in the Department of Computer Science alone, identity management plays a crucial role when providing access to many essential services (e.g. computer labs, restricted websites, and building access). In recent years, access has been granted using both department-local and campus-wide credentials: a source of confusion for students.

Similar situations were identified across the University, highlighting the growing need for a central authentication and authorization system that could work with disparate systems regardless of the vendor or platform. To develop a solution, the UBC Identity and Access Management (IAM) team and a technical staff member from the Department of Computer Science worked together while consulting extensively with groups campus-wide to develop a tool to leverage CWL login information as well as institutional identity data from across the institution.

The new Enterprise Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (ELDAP) system provides a much faster and substantially more secure process to determine a user’s relationship with the university (e.g. incoming/active student, active faculty member, courses, instructors) in order to grant access to a specific service or application. The tool was created based on input from the broader UBC community with representatives from Faculties such as Science, Applied Science, Arts, Medicine, Advanced Research Computing (ARC), and Graduate Studies.

This extensive collaboration also included one on one meetings with local department staff, a steering committee, the ELDAP user group, and Faculty of Science IT presentations. Ultimately, ELDAP was created to greatly simplify the process of authorization and access, reducing weeks of work down to a few hours.

"Being able to work on core infrastructure rather than simply providing advice allowed for an enormously collaborative effort. ELDAP is truly a service built by the university community."

Anthony Winstanley
Education Technology Architect, Department of Computer Science