IST Annual Report 2017

We Empower The University

Welcome From Our
Deputy CIO


“The stories shared here represent only a small percentage of the work that IST staff do on a daily basis. We have selected these stories as we think they will be of particular interest to the community and help to best represent how we are empowering the university.”

Making a Daily Impact 


user requests and incidents closed daily


high risk intrusion attempts blocked daily


of data added to Google Suite applications every day, including 174,000 emails sent daily


of UWS data consumed by each user monthly


customer satisfaction from follow-up support request surveys

Enhancing Teaching and Learning


credit courses created in eClass by users


supported classrooms and labs, housing over 2500 classroom sessions daily


one-on-one eClass support consults


eClass users


online quizzes in eClass

Supporting Research Initiatives


Compute Canada account holders


Resource Allocation Competition (RAC) allocations awarded


core-year allocations awarded

Facilitating Advancements in Administration


domestic high school applicants processed through Auto-Eval


applicants accepted a bundled residency with an admission offer in Bear Tracks


proposals through Researcher Self-Service in Financials


payments processed in Human Capital Management


documents loaded in Electronic Document & Records Management System adding to a total of 852,346 available for digital access

Advancing Technology to Create Better Experiences

Technology is a significant tool in higher education. As computing systems, applications, internet connectivity, and servers are critical to our work, it is imperative to never settle for the current state but to continue evolving to achieve better efficiencies and savings. As the central IT department on campus, we integrate and manage the critical and everyday systems for Faculties, departments, and units, and we listen when we know these systems can do better. We integrate our expertise with a drive to achieve better results and implement better solutions.

Networks Get a Fresh Start Under RNIU

The sign of a good network is that it’s invisible. Information is obtained, sent, and received in a matter of seconds. Connections are created and terminated seamlessly. We trust our networks to support us in all our pursuits, but in order for that to happen, we need to support our networks just as much. In November 2016, the University of Alberta embarked on a $20 million program to upgrade our research networks thanks to funds awarded through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF).

The Research Network Infrastructure Upgrade (RNIU) program is bringing the university community better data security, speed, and stability, all of which is vital to research.

The Right Access to the Right Resources

Every day across the university, tens of thousands of users require access to digital resources in order to complete their work, further their education, and record the latest research finding. Within the university environment, our digital identities provide access to a long list of resources, including PeopleSoft, Gmail, eClass, BearTracks, and Libraries. A new Identity and Access Management (IAM) system is being implemented to better manage who has access to what information.

IAM ensures the right people have access to the right resources by establishing a set of business processes and supporting technologies that govern the creation, maintenance, and use of a digital identity.

Integrating AI to Improve User Experience

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the power to intelligently interact with humans such that it simulates a real interaction. In a university environment, where requests for technical support average over 300 a day, AI can improve response times by responding to simple inquiries. Introduced last fall, Eve is an artificial intelligence engine designed to answer IT-related requests over live chat 24/7 instead of during defined hours.

As Eve assists more users, the virtual assistant will continue to learn and add to its knowledge base. In the future, Eve’s capabilities will be expanded to assist users with CCID password resets and provide links to student support resources.

You’re Accepted with Auto-Eval

Receiving a university offer letter is quintessential to the coming-of-age story. What most are unaware of is the amount of work happening behind the scenes: reading transcripts, evaluating courses, and matching program requirements. Auto-Eval aims to reduce that workload by streamlining the university application process for Canadian high school students.

Auto-Eval was another successful partnership between IST and the Office of the Registrar. Now when Canadian high school students apply to the University of Alberta, the Auto-Eval process evaluates the student’s courses and grades, matches them with the program requirements, and makes the acceptance decision. Before Auto-Eval, it took over 30 business days to provide an admission decision for 47% of applications. Now, 32% of applicants receive their admission decision in less than 24 hours, and 65% hear back within two to ten business days.

Moving Online: Academic Advisement

Every September, thousands of new students set out to do what thousands of other students have done before them: chart a course through university life. To simplify the process, IST, the Office of the Registrar, and a consortium of Faculties led an initiative to implement Academic Advisement, a module within PeopleSoft Campus Solutions that tracks the requirements a student must satisfy in order to graduate.

In January 2017, the Faculty of Arts released advising reports for 4,500 BA students, and in August 2017, the Faculty of Extension released advising reports for 13,200 students. Now, students in these Faculties can get answers such as which courses they can take towards their major, what courses they are missing towards their minor, and if they are on track to graduate, all at the click of a button.

Making Strides in Strategy

The university’s IT capability has developed substantially over the recent past with growth in both IT service supply and demand. The provision of IT services will be required to keep pace with new technological developments such as cloud and software as a service. To stay ahead of the curve, and to plan for new technologies of the future, IST developed four strategic themes as points of focus over the next few years to create a strong delivery of IT services into the future.


  • Facilitated adoption of eClass in the School of Business.
  • Decommissioned 97 aging applications.
  • Successfully decommissioned old servers and are now utilizing core virtual infrastructure so we no longer have ever-greening costs every few years.
  • Renegotiated several service contracts, saving $822,000.

Transparent Value

  • Facilitated the creation of the IT Teaching and Learning Steering and Advisory committees, as well as the expansion of the IT Steering Committee Administration to include F&O, FGSR, and Dean of Students.
  • Established a non-integrated IT leaders group to improve cross-community engagement.
  • Developed IT financial management system to provide accurate total costs of services. Allows for baselining, benchmarking, and identification of services for closure or transition.
  • Introduced operations reporting and analytics that provide data that enables us to continually improve services and make data-driven and informed business decisions.

Process Improvement

  • Leveraged Ephesoft (intelligent document capture) for scanning transcripts into EDRMS significantly reducing the administrative effort of admissions staff by automatically matching ~70% of the >23,000 transcripts received by the Office of the Registrar.
  • Implemented an improved search function and updated the PDF merge function in GSMS to enable more effective and efficient management of graduate student applications.
  • Automated the previously manual process of sending copyright notices.

Grow Our People

  • Creating a skills development framework for future skills.
  • Providing staff development opportunities through secondments to strategic initiatives.
  • Introducing a management accountability framework to improve IST performance.
  • Realigning job classifications to ensure equity across integrated staff.

Success in our Initiatives

The growing application of IT in the academic and student support spheres presents a mixture of new and existing challenges, including the optimal technology mix for computer labs and classrooms, research computing, online course delivery, user-preferred devices, and mobile accessibility. To complement the IST Strategic Plan, we are actively pursuing four initiatives to meet the needs of the institution: Student Lifecycle; Teaching, Learning, and Research Ecosystem; Cloud Adoption; and Application and Data Integration.


Student Lifecycle

  • Created an improved experience by enabling undergraduates to submit their admissions and residence applications together.
  • Automated undergraduate evaluation management, allowing applicants who apply right out of high school to receive a conditional offer within 48 hours and condition removal within 24 hours after receipt of their transcript.
  • Replaced an unstable system with new thesis deposit solution in EDRMS that enables graduate students to submit their theses.


Teaching, Learning, and Research Ecosystem

  • Introduced MFS, a Mass File Storage service that provides low-cost storage for data that is not routinely accessed.
  • Built an integrated syllabus/outcome tool that allows instructors to easily create a syllabus, saving time and creating a consistent experience for students.


Cloud Discovery

  • Moving eClass to the cloud to provide better responsiveness and long-term stability.
  • Cloud Discovery project initiated to investigate how the University can leverage cloud.


Application and Data Integration

  • Developed ecosystem approach for hybrid system integration and operation.
  • Developing a requirements specification for the adoption of an integration hub to enable real-time availability of data interchange.

Looking into the Future

Technology will continue to evolve classrooms and introduce novel ways to learn in physical and online classrooms. The future classroom will evolve based on new teaching pedagogy to incorporate new technologies that will enhance the student experience and support instructors as they impart their knowledge on the next generation of learners. We’re looking ahead and asking questions that will shape the future of learning and technology. We are planning for the long-term socio-economic and demographic changes that will transform the world, as well as for near-term, disruptive technical trends such as personalized learning, machine intelligence, and blockchain.

Supporting Student Success

What if we could use data to empower students and instructors?

With the inclusion of learning analytics, curriculum could be refined and additional student support and guidance be provided to improve success rates.

Lab Software, Without Limitations

What if a piece of software was not limited to a particular lab on campus?

Specialized software is limited to individual labs on campus, which can cause obstacles in accessing software. With virtual desktops, software no longer needs to be limited to a particular lab and can be accessible in whichever lab the product is needed.

Connecting Information Across Applications

What if all applications and data were integrated to share information seamlessly?

University applications often function independently and collect and consume information differently. We envision an environment where all applications complement one another to share information and reduce data redundancy.

Developing an Ecosystem

What if learning tools were available and known to the university community?

If we could harness different learning tools used across 18 Faculties to strengthen ties across the campus community, then learning technologies would be better coordinated, and supports and services for learning technologies would be more responsive.

Believing in What We Do


Manager, Service Delivery

“I resonate a lot with the five values of IST … you need to be aware of the impacts you’re going to have and how you can help the people on campus.”


Teaching and Learning Technology

“I’m lucky enough to be working in an area that’s one of the university’s core missions… uplifting the whole people through the creation and dissemination of knowledge.”


Team Lead, Edge Networking

“I enjoy coming to work because of the people I work with. I enjoy being able to solve problems and provide solutions to further the university and move the organization ahead.”


Analyst​​, Information Se​curity

“In the fight against cybercrime, I am on the frontline. Every day I am challenged with identifying and responding to cyber threats as we work to ensure the security of the University of Alberta.”


Team Lead, Client Support

“We’re all here for the same reason: we’re here so professors, researchers, and administrators can do their jobs.”


AnaLyst, Service Desk

“What strikes me most about IST is how vast the support is. There are so many different departments… it’s like a big spider web, and we’re smack-dab in the middle of it.”

Thank You

Thank you for your support and commitment in helping us accomplish another year of milestones and achievements for UAlberta!