UWRF’s tech services face pandemic’s challenges

Posted April 29, 2020

The Division of Technology Services (DoTS) enables teaching, learning and university experience through technology at UW-River Falls. It is considered essential under the “safer at home” emergency order that Gov. Tony Evers issued as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Joe Kmiech is the director of DoTS and evaluates the impact the edict is having on the division. Of the 85 staff members working for DoTS, 50 are students. The edict has forced the division to have staff work from home, which Kmiech cited as the largest impact.

“We have 32 professional staff members and only about two to three are on campus daily,” Kmiech said. Additionally, according to Kmiech, all the student workers do their jobs from home.

One issue that DoTS has to combat has been bridging what’s called the “digital divide.” The digital divide refers to someone who does not have access to the internet. With many courses now being taught online, this has proved a challenge for some UWRF students.

“(The digital divide) is common in very rural areas,” explained Kmiech. “It remains a problem that about 100 students are dealing with currently and we are working around those obstacles, but it has provided a challenge to us.”

Kmiech said the stay-at-home requirement has had a significant impact on the division but overall it was well prepared. Virtual networking options are available and DoTS is lending equipment to UWRF students for pickup. The pickups must be requested ahead of time over the phone. However, DoTS does not have an unlimited supply.

“With not knowing how long this whole situation is going to take, we have to remain cautious when distributing because of our supply numbers,” Kmiech said.

The governor’s “safer at home” order was to expire on April 24, but has been extended to May 26.