This project is a finalist for the 2021 Golden GOVIT Awards in the Collaboration category. This project was completed by MNIT, Minnesota State Info Hub & IT Services for 30 colleges & 7 universities. This project was nominated by Kristi Karels. 

The Minnesota State system serves over 340,000 students annually.  In 2020, the pandemic forced an unprecedented shift in delivery systems for students enrolled in courses across the Minnesota State system.  Students who had been attending in-person coursework suddenly found themselves in online classrooms, in a virtual environment they had not previously navigated. With the collaboration efforts and a pop-up call center, the system was able to provide support to students seven days a week for extended hours. Because this support center was initiated at a system-level, the 30 colleges and 7 universities did not need to extend their campus IT staff beyond it’s already stretched capacity. Students could call in with questions about their Office 365 features, D2L Brightspace (online classroom), Zoom, and other general IT questions.


The project started as a brainstorming session with Academic and Student Affairs in the Minnesota State system office.  In order to make this project succeed, the collaboration efforts of Minnesota IT Services, the Minnesota State Info Hub, and IT Services for 30 colleges and 7 universities needed to work simultaneously. The Minnesota State Info Hub is a collaborative department governed by administration from Northland Community and Technical College, Alexandria Technical and Community College, Bemidji State University, with a fiscal host of Northwest Technical College. The office also has a department name of “Distance Minnesota” {} .  The 17 employees were in the midst of going remote themselves. The IT/analyst team were able to work with MNIT and set-up remote routers so that the agents could access private data behind the firewalls hosted by Bemidji State University IT Services.  While the agents were getting their offices transitioned to remote workstations, the admin and IT teams were busy adding work to their plates.  A new toll-free number was initiated and advertised on the COVID-19 informational pages at 30 colleges and 7 universities {} { For technical support related to StarID, D2L, Kaltura, Zoom, Office 365, or other inquiries, visit for instructional guides, how-to videos, and more}.  This phone number was designed to ring into two separate offices as the hours of services did not overlap 100%. Daytime and early evening calls rang into the Minnesota State Info Hub.  After 8pm, the calls rolled to the Minnesota State IT Service Desk.  This programming was completed by MNIT practically overnight.   Students and faculty across the system had access to additional personalized support in a trying time.  Faculty could arrange trainings via Zoom for many new features from ASA staff, but they could also access real-time support from the Minnesota State Info Hub. Call volume tripled in the next 5 months, as students transitioned to online learning and bumped their noses on the virtual walls of knowledge acquisition. Call volume increased from 400-500 calls per month to a high of 1,338 calls per month for all Minnesota State prospects and students, but for the new line, calls increased from 0 per month to 615 in the month of August 2020. Without this added collaborative support, campus staff may have duplicated IT services and training support throughout the system or students simply may have “gone without”.

Agents in the Distance Minnesota “Info Hub” quickly acclimated to the role of online trainers and cheerleaders for students, faculty, and staff functioning in a remote learning environment.

Distance Minnesota also collaborates with the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA), providing phone support to Veterans and military family as a resource and referral line (also identified as the LinkVet Linkage Line {}). During COVID, the MDVA initiated several grant projects to provide funding to Veterans and their families going through difficult times. Agents also provided IT Support, guidance, and referrals to County Veteran Service offices throughout Minnesota for online forms created by MNIT services. which were available on the MDVA website: {}.