When Trine University stopped on-campus instruction because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was John Cilla's job to make sure more than 2,000 students safely transitioned to online learning.
As the help desk manager, Cilla said his first concern was the students. He knew that many of them wouldn't have access to resources the campus provided, like desktop computers, so he made sure the campus materials they needed could be accessed via smartphone.
Jason Cable, chief information officer at Trine, said Cilla has gone above and beyond to make sure everyone stayed connected.
“He will make himself available whenever the need is there,” Cable said. “It could be 9 o'clock at night, it could be on a weekend, it could be the middle of the night during a weekend. He's very responsive.”
Cable said he was most concerned about security during the shutdown as well as how to support so many students trying to connect online. All of a sudden, instead of 20 students accessing the campus-provided VPN, or Virtual Private Network, there were hundreds.
Cilla said his workflow grew in the days following the Angola campus closing, but he was able to manage.
“Having 12-ish-hour days or a little bit more and working on the weekends, that's kind of what was required, and that's what we needed,” he said. “And so that's just what I did.”
Cable said Cilla's performance has been excellent.
“He's definitely one of our most valued assets in out IT department here at Trine.”
In the days after the shutdown, Cable said the IT team of 12 people made itself available to assist students with online training, setting up applications like Zoom and building a hybrid course in Moodle, the campus learning management system.
Cilla said he felt rewarded as he saw the number of service tickets begin to shrink.
“I started to see less problems or less calls for help, and I figured that meant that things were going well,” he said.
Cilla said this pandemic has made him optimistic about the future of digital learning.
“I think as kind of a clouded silver lining, it shows that we really can have more of a virtual presence, not only in the education area, but in just the corporate world in general that we can manage home environments, we can manage our days. As long as we have the accessibility, it really does provide some benefits for telecommuters.”