For the latest information and additional details about Mason’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19), please see https://www2.gmu.edu/coronavirus.
This page will continue to be updated as more information becomes available. Last update: Thursday, March 26, 2020 at 6:00 p.m.
How to maintain continuity in your work when you can't be in the office or classroom
Both for routine and extraordinary events, it is helpful to be prepared to use technology tools that can help you stay connected with workplace operations and courses from a remote location.
This guide offers useful resources for teleworking and working remotely that are available to Mason students, faculty and staff, as well as planning guidance for departments and groups.
ITS recommends that you stay in touch with your department IT support staff and your department leadership for guidance on best practices and resources for working remotely.
How to Get Help
The ITS Support Center serves as a central point of contact for the Mason community to request IT support or information. Go to the ITS Support Center information page for contact information.
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Tools and Technology You'll Need
- Make sure you know your passwords! Visit the Password Management website if you forgot or need to reset your password.
- Make sure you have your Two-Factor Authentication device(s) with you. If you only have one device registered, consider adding another option as a backup.
- Ensure your devices are secure:
- Gather the supplies you need to effectively do your job and communicate with others. These may include:
- Microphones & speakers for conference calls (if your computer does not have them built-in)
- Power adapters
- Keyboard & mouse (if you'll be working from a laptop)
- Physical files and records
- Consider the files and applications you'll need to use, and test them before beginning remote work. These may include:
- MasonLive (Email for Students)
- MasonLive knowledge articles (student email, OneDrive, ProPlus)
- MESA Personal Storage (mydata) and MESA Departmental Shared Storage
- Microsoft Teams
- Office 365 (Email for Employees)
- Office 365 knowledge articles (employee email, calendar, OneDrive, etc.)
- Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
- Virtual Private Network (VPN)
- Webex Meetings
- Webex Teams
- Windows Virtual Desktop (VDI)
- Review Mason’s Flexible Work website
- Make sure you are signed up for ITS Alerts
Collaboration Tools, Email, and Productivity
Visit MS Teams to request this service for yourself or on behalf of your organization. Access to the MS Teams requires 2FA for Office 365.
Effective Friday, March 13, 2020, all Mason employees have Webex Teams accounts. To access your account, see Webex Teams and click the Download Webex Teams button to the right to download the app and sign in.
Connecting to Mason Applications and Services
Connecting from home
For most types of work—email, cloud apps, collaboration platforms—you should be able to connect through your regular home Internet service. Just navigate to the sites you need to use and log in using your Mason NetID and Patriot Pass Password. If you are an employee including student workers, be ready to use Two-Factor Authentication to complete the login process.
If you don't have broadband Internet at home
If you don't have Internet at home, or if your connection speed is too slow to allow you to work the same way you would if you were at Mason, be sure to let your supervisor and co-workers know, and come up with a plan for how to keep collaboration flowing. You could connect periodically to send and receive email and files, share files through a removable 'thumb' drive, or use a cellular hotspot.
[COVID-19 RESPONSE] To allow for universities to fully engage in Online Learning and continue work remotely, a number of Internet providers are offering assistance during the COVID-19 outbreak. See Educause's list of Corporate Resources for COVID-19.
Connecting through a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
For some types of work, like if you are working in an application or service that can only be accessed through the Mason wired or MASON-SECURE Wi-Fi networks, you might need to use the Virtual Private Network (VPN). The VPN allows a user to appear as if they are logging in from within Mason’s network. If you require the VPN, it's a good idea to test the connection prior to starting remote work if possible.
Connecting Via the Windows Virtual Desktop (VDI) on a Personal Device
For some individuals, bringing home your work computer is not an option. In the event you need to work remotely, but still need access to certain applications on your personal device, the virtual desktop can provide an experience similar to being on-campus, connected to a computer in your office. The Windows Virtual Desktop (VDI) service is secure remote access to a Windows desktop environment that provides access to Mason applications from off-campus.
- VDI information
- Access to the VDI requires 2FA for Office 365
Phone and Voicemail
Call forwarding to an external line, such as a cell or home phone, is available. Contact your department’s Telecom Coordinator (if unsure, contact your office manager or Telecom Administration) to coordinate getting this service.
All telephone and voice mail requests must be processed through your department's Telecom Coordinator.
Web Conferencing and Chat
Microsoft Teams is avialable by request for individuals or for organizations. Access to the MS Teams requires 2FA for Office 365.
Effective Friday, March 13, 2020, all Mason employees have Webex Teams accounts. To access your account, go to gmu.webex.com and sign in.
Effective Friday, March 13, 2020, all Mason employees will have Webex Teams accounts. To access your account, see Webex Teams and click the Download Webex Teams button to the right to download the app and sign in.
- Microsoft Teams is commonly used for chat, audio calling, video calling, screen share, and access to several additional Office 365 shared features
- Webex Meetings is commonly used for web conferencing to share video, audio, and content
- Webex Teams is commonly used for group and one-on-one chats
[COVID-19 RESPONSE] Cisco has developed a consolidated site with content to support faculty teaching remotely. See Cisco's Transition to Virtual Learning resources.
Continuity of Instruction
- ITS COVID-19 Information and FAQs for Faculty
- Blackboard Readiness- Moving Courses Online
- Continuity of Instruction: How to Keep Teaching When You Can't Meet in Person
- How to Use Blackboard at Mason (for Instructors)
- For more information on Blackboard, please see the Blackboard Courses service, Just in Time videos, and Blackboard Instructional Technology Support for Faculty. Mason’s Blackboard support staff is available for help during emergency via this request.
- How to Use Webex to Conduct Meetings or Classes Remotely
- George Mason University employees teleworking are reminded that any devices used to access Mason’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) are required to have a current operating system and updated software. Devices using the VPN should only be used by Mason employees. Devices managed by ITS in MESA Active Directory and Jamf Pro for Mac OS are automatically set up to receive the latest operating system and software. Employees are encouraged to use a managed system whenever possible. Employees who access sensitive information should only use Mason-owned devices.
- Employees using their personal home computers to telework should use the Windows Virtual Desktop (VDI) service. This provides secure remote access to a Windows desktop environment with access to Mason applications from off-campus. Employees using this option on their personal devices are not approved for storing sensitive data and therefore should not print sensitive data using the print to PDF option. However, data can be stored to the M: drive. Understand that the VDI is intended for university work only and employees are bound by all university policies when using this resource.
- When working remotely, it is especially important to remain vigilant about data security. Make sure you are on the appropriate connection for each task; for example, use a VPN or other equally secure connection when handling sensitive or restricted data. Additionally, be aware of increased risk for phishing attempts. Check with your department IT support staff to make sure you are equipped to work safely while off campus.
- Mason provides Symantec antivirus protection for Mason-owned computers through the Software Center (Windows) or Mason Self Service (Macs). If your Mason-owned computer is not managed, you may take the following actions:
- Students, Faculty, and Staff (personal computers): The IT Security Office recommends these free options for employees' personal computers
- Read Mason’s University Policy 2202: Flexible Work
- Review University Policy 1301: Responsible Use of Computing that explains what constitutes acceptable and appropriate use of campus computing and network resources
ITS requires that faculty and staff use Mason-managed endpoint devices for their work and research. For assistance with configuring a computer system, please contact the ITS Support Center. For more information, go to:
- ITS-Approved Standard Endpoint Devices for Faculty & Staff
- ITS-Approved Computer Hardware Standards for Faculty & Staff Mason Standard System Requirements
Software on Managed Mason-owned Computers
Software is available through System Center Configuration Manager-SCCM (for PCs) or Jamf Pro (for Macs).
Planning for remote work within your department
To stay effective during events that necessitate telework, it’s important to make preparations, ideally before the disruption occurs. Within your department or group, you should:
- Discuss how your group(s) will handle business disruptions
- Develop and document a communication plan that covers how your department or group will:
- Provide important updates and information
- Communicate during emergencies
- Conduct routine collaboration on projects
- In your communication plan, clarify which tools and platforms will be used for routing information. These could include:
- Your departmental intranet or shared drive
- Web conferencing for virtual meetings
- Telephone features such as call forwarding
- Online chat (via Webex Teams)
- VPN or VDI to connect to Mason applications from off-campus
- Assign responsibilities, and assemble a list that includes names and contact information (including personal phone numbers) for the people who are carrying out the plan
- Share documentation of your plan within your group in a location where all members can easily access
- Review your plan at least annually, updating contact lists and tools as appropriate
- Make sure your group members are signed up for ITS Alerts
Keep in mind that during a major disaster, some online services may not be available until they are recovered or restored.