New CUNY Initiatives Supporting Academia

Brian Cohen, Vice Chancellor & Chief Information Officer

Computing and Information Services

CUNY’s Computing and Information Services (CIS) has devoted the past few months to supporting the CUNY community in its move to distance learning and remote work. This issue of Tech Today provides a recap of some recent initiatives, resources and offerings that we hope can assist you as you work, teach, and study online.

Resources for Distance Learning and Remote Working

The following sites consolidate information for faculty, staff and students on technology resources available across CUNY:

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Enhancing Blackboard for Heavier Use 


With almost all courses going online, CIS took numerous steps to support the greater use of Blackboard. To accommodate greater use of Blackboard for distance learning, CIS worked with Blackboard to double the allocated space for all Spring and Summer 2020 courses (from 750 MB to 1.5 GB) and to expand support of Blackboard Collaborate to 300,000 students. In addition, CIS worked with Blackboard administrators to consolidate guidance on moving courses online on the Blackboard resource site.

CUNY also contracted with Blackboard to provide after-hours Blackboard support by telephone on weeknights (between 8:00 pm and 8:00 am) as well as all day and night on Saturdays and Sunday. This after-hours support is limited to receiving help using Blackboard and not for issues involving CUNY Login or accessing Blackboard. See After Hours Blackboard Support for details.

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Expanding Audio/Visual Conference Offerings 

With the increased need for audio/visual conferencing, CIS expanded the tools available to the CUNY community. We attained a 90-day license from Cisco for the WebEx conferencing tool, which was then extended until the end of August 2020. The tool is now also integrated with Blackboard for use with online courses, and created the Connect CUNY WebEx Quick Start Guide.

CIS also added students’ CUNY Login usernames into the CUNYfirst Class Roster so faculty can easily download students’ names and insert them into Microsoft Teams Meeting invitations. Step-by-step instructions for Accessing the Student Roster for Dropbox/Microsoft Office 365 are available on the Microsoft Office 365 for Education Training Resources page.

New Training Offerings on Cloud Solutions   

Cloud communication, collaboration, and sharing applications, such as Microsoft Office 365 and Dropbox, have now become essential tools as we work and teach remotely. To help support their use, CIS Training has been working with a variety of vendors to increase both the frequency and the scope of training webinars.

The Office 365 webinar series, originally scheduled to run once every two weeks and cover three topics, has expanded in frequency to 3-4 webinars per week and now includes topics, such as Forms (creating and analyzing surveys), Power Automate (creating automated workflows), Planner (a project management tool), and Teams/SharePoint for Managers (deeper dive into managerial functionalities). CIS Training webinars are open and free to all CUNY faculty and staff. Please complete the Registration Form to select and sign up for your desired courses using your CUNY Login (Username:

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New Resources for Students   

CIS has undertaken numerous activities to support CUNY students, including the following:


Provisioning Devices: Many CUNY students were unable to engage in online learning because they did not have PCs, tablets or other devices. CIS ordered more than 30,000 devices, Apple iPads and Chromebooks from Dell and Lenovo, and arranged for the delivery and logistics of getting these devices to the colleges and into the hands of students. CIS also created instructions to set up the device and a new support page with additional information for those receiving the iPads and Chromebooks.

Home Use of Adobe: CIS worked with Adobe to enable student remote access until May 31, 2020, which has now been extended to July 6, 2020. Previously, only faculty had home use. Now students can access Adobe remotely using their credentials. Student instructions on Accessing Adobe Creative Cloud are available online and will be available from the IT Resources for Remote Work & Teaching page.

Expansion of CUNYcloud VDI services: CIS has been working with campuses to expand remote software access via the CUNYcloud VDI environment. CIS added MS Access needed by certain academic programs and is working to improve performance and add additional software to support the instructional needs of the campuses.

Upload of Required Documents: CUNY eliminated another obstacle facing students who need to submit documents, forms or other records while University offices are closed. A new CUNYfirst self-service Document Upload function lets students securely upload supporting financial aid, health services and registrar/student records to a new FileNet Student Documents Repository. Administrators at the colleges or Central Office can then search the Student Documents Repository and view a student’s uploaded documents to confirm the student has fulfilled documentation requirements.

Online Voting: CIS has reviewed existing applications develop by staff at CCNY and Guttman, as well as third party applications. The two existing applications developed by CUNY staff can be adapted by other CUNY colleges to meet the need for on-line voting.

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We welcome your comments and ideas for new initiatives at