CAUSE/EFFECT

This article was published in CAUSE/EFFECT journal, Volume 22 Number 3 1999. The copyright is shared by EDUCAUSE and the author. See http://www.educause.edu/copyright for additional copyright information.

Campuswide Preparedness for Y2K at Georgetown University
by Christopher Megill

The year 2000 problem has presented both an enormous challenge and a potential opportunity to increase user awareness, education, and responsibility. At Georgetown University, Y2K remediation and education have provided numerous challenges requiring a balance of due diligence and service. GU�s University Information Services (UIS) has found that despite the problems and challenges faced in trying to render an entire campus Y2K compliant, choosing to be proactive about the Y2K problem opened doors and created opportunities. Among these was the opportunity to teach the end user more about technology and ensure that the millennium bug would not negatively impact valuable university resources.

Y2K is everyone�s responsibility

The scope of the Y2K problem is such that ownership and responsibility belong to every technology service provider and user on campus. At GU a central year 2000 program office was created to coordinate efforts, achieve due diligence, and minimize risk to mission-critical systems. Academic and Information Technology Services, the end-user service arm of the organization, in collaboration with the Y2K office, has led efforts to address desktop, standard software, faculty research, pedagogical tools, and home computing issues.

A key service component has been consideration for the home user whose equipment and software fall outside of the bounds of institutional due diligence. The reality within an educational community is that a significant amount of learning, research, and development of intellectual property is pursued by faculty, staff, and students off-campus.

At GU we adopted a strategy centered upon promoting awareness, facilitating access to external support resources, and educating users on how to remedy potential problems. A careful balance has been maintained between extending services and avoiding liability issues for home technology.

Successful user awareness services have included campus fairs located in areas of high traffic and monthly updates to a group of departmental technology representatives. Student communities have been targeted during back-to-school orientation activities. These venues have provided the mechanisms to raise awareness and distribute tools and documentation designed to help users help themselves.

GU has provided widespread resources and support

Comprehensive documents targeted for stand-alone home computers were created to inform GU users of the Y2K problem and provide instructions on how to protect their data and remedy issues. Step-by-step instructions on how to locate important files, make duplicate copies, back up software, download vendor patches, and locate information on software version compliance were included. Additional documentation on Macintosh-based applications and recent Y2K developments have been posted on the GU Web site at http://www.georgetown.edu/uis/services/y2k/. We also distributed YMark2000 software--freeware developed by NSTL to test the BIOS and Real Time Clock of DOS-based operating systems--at fairs, at group meetings, through the UIS Service Desk, and through our Y2K Web site. All documents have included the appropriate disclaimers aimed at protecting the university from liability and reminding the users of their responsibility to remedy their home equipment, software, and data.

The extension of university standard software licensing and distribution services to home users has provided faculty and staff access to compliant versions. Training classes, one-on-one departmental visits, graduate assistants, and special workshops have helped users part with beloved yet non-Y2K compliant versions of word processing packages.

The outcome of extending overtaxed support services beyond on-campus remediation efforts can ease the transition into the millennium and serve to build user self sufficiency with technology. The Georgetown community has benefited from being informed about their technology-related responsibilities and the availability of helpful resources. A potentially disastrous situation may turn into a win-win situation for both users and technology service providers.

Christopher Megill ([email protected]) is the manager of student technology services in University Information Services at Georgetown University.

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