6.10 Information Technology

Whereas in 2020, every possible effort was made to make remote instruction and working from home possible on a large scale in the shortest possible time, efforts in 2021 focused on scaling up and optimizing these new or improved IT facilities. The IT organization improved the management and security of the University’s cloud-based home workstations, completed the transition to a new email environment, and began the delivery of equipment for working from home. A certain extent of habituation to the situation of working from home and online instruction occurred, as evidenced in a slight decrease in the number of support requests received by the help desk (which nevertheless received 35,000 help requests).

Information security was a second area of concern for the IT organization. Information security equipment and some applications were replaced, insecure applications were disabled, and others were made more secure. These activities will also be continued in 2022. Following an audit commissioned by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Dutch universities formulated a level of ambition in the field of information security. Tilburg University identified improvement measures for its own University and initiated a multi-year program to bring information security to the nationally selected level of maturity. A new information security policy and risk management system contribute to these efforts. All levels of the University, up to and including the EB, participated in a large-scale cyber-crisis drill in March. Promotional campaigns helped raise awareness of information security among our staff and students. This topic will nevertheless require substantial effort and commitment in the coming years. 

The IT organization made a significant contribution to several renovations, including those of the Vigilant building, the Library, and the temporary education building on Meerkoldreef. In the space of three and a half months, the latter was fitted with cabling, workstations, and lecture hall facilities to be in use at the start of the 2021/2022 academic year.

The storage and servers in the computer rooms, the network, and the data cabling were replaced through a European tender, and the hiring of IT personnel was successfully tendered as well.

Contacts and communication were complicated by COVID-19, thereby placing a strain on cooperation and services. This has led to longer lead times when rolling out new facilities and implementing changes. At the same time, however, there was more clarity on the prioritization of projects, and a new consultative body within Library and IT Services improved communication between the project organization and the IT organization.

The IT organization also worked to optimize sustainability in 2021. Efforts to this end included the re-use of cabling. This ensures that the old cabling will not cause contamination, while eliminating the need to purchase new cabling. In addition, the hardware in the computer rooms was replaced with more powerful, energy-efficient, and carbon-neutral equipment.

Educational support

The IT infrastructure now supports hybrid instruction. New equipment in the larger lecture rooms allows classes to be followed simultaneously by students in the lecture room and at home. All student workstations on campus can now be converted to testing workstations. As a result, examinations can now be given at many more locations on campus, and the examination organization can more easily set the degree of internet access at testing workstations. Through a European tender, the University chose an application that will support the application of video in education. In addition, pilot projects introduced nearly 100 lecturers to the use of knowledge bites, instructional videos, and interactive videos in their classes. TiSEM adopted two updated simulation games that were developed in-house for use in their instruction. Through a new application, automatic evaluations are now sent to students for 95% of all Bachelor’s and Master’s level courses after the final class and after the examination. The results contribute to monitoring and increasing the quality of education. The introduction of a new workstation reservation system made it possible for students to reserve workstations in the Library and other buildings on campus. The system was necessary during the pandemic, but it will continue to be used beyond that time, at least in the Library.

Research support

The Research Data Office in the Library helped researchers in the management of research data through consulting, webinars, and a new portal. Researchers gained access to the new GDPR, Ethics, and Data Management (G.E.D.) tool, which assists them in complying with the GDPR, ethics requirements, and data management policy when submitting applications. This facility is the first application on a recently introduced platform: Power Automate element of Microsoft 365.

The SURF Research Drive also became available. This facility provides researchers with a secure, organized, and flexible way to share their research data with national and international collaboration partners during their research. Students were provided with an online learning module to help them learn about managing their research data. Additional computational power was made available in the TSHD computer room. The Library arranged for the last books in the unique Buijnsters-Smets collection of children’s books to be made available digitally and completely royalty-free for purposes of teaching and research.