In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic drove Indiana’s I-Light network to shift its staff and operations to remote locations.Yet, amid the uncertainties and challenges that unfolded across the state and world, the organization has maintained the highest level of connectivity and uninterrupted operation of the Indiana GigaPOP. I-Light has also remained steadfast in support of its 40+ member institutions and Indiana’s research and education community. Throughout the global health crisis, I-Light delivered services that allowed for teaching and learning to continue across the state and beyond, from people’s homes and on reconfigured, reduced campuses.

Each year I-Light members and collaborators convene for face-to-face informative and productive two-day sessions to discuss the latest network trends and technologies, new initiatives and opportunities, and the current and future needs of their institutions. I-Light’s annual Members Meeting additionally fosters connection and engagement among its community. These close, collaborative relationships are vital to the highest quality of services that I-Light provides to colleges and universities, state government, and public media in the state of Indiana.

In 2020, health and safety risks rendered meeting in person impossible. However, commitment to community inspired I-Light’s decision to gather its members together virtually for its 14th annual Members Meeting, which was held in two consecutive half-day sessions on November 4-5.

“The I-Light team has always been there to support its members’ networking needs. I-Light has been there during NCAA tournament time, when a school is in the finals and needing extra bandwidth to keep up with the number of students watching the tournament in their dorm rooms. I-Light was there to help bring up new connectivity for a remote campus in Arizona. 2020 has yielded no exceptions,” said Marianne Chitwood, director of I-Light and the Indiana GigaPop. “The I-Light team consulted and assisted its members throughout the year on wireless implementations and writing grant proposals for COVID-related funding to provide no cost commodity internet. The challenges of 2020 were an opportunity for I-Light to step up and support its members through the uncertainties and challenges they were facing.”

The 2020 virtual Members Meeting gave members and collaborative partners opportunity to share and reflect on challenges faced, resources available, efforts undertaken, lessons learned, and successes achieved over the past year. Also included were various exchanges about responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sessions were comprised of panel presentations and related discussions on specific topics as well as open discussion time. Members had the chance to meet virtually with vendors in designated “zoom rooms” before the start of sessions on Day 1. At the end of the first day’s sessions, members joined a virtual happy half-hour to catch up and reconnect,  plus enjoy an additional opportunity to chat at the end of Day 2.

More than 70 representatives from the I-Light community registered for the event and participated in various parts of the 2020 virtual Member Meeting, with each segment of the agenda drawing 35-51 viewers. Following is a list of the event’s panels and presenters:

  • OmniSOC: Overview and security services for NRENs
    • C.J. Kloote and Scott Orr, OmniSOC
  • Covid Impact Panel: How members shifted their technology efforts for remote learning and lessons learned
    • Dave Jent, IU, Ray Stanley, Marian University, and Tom Taylor, Ivy Tech
  • Internet@ Net+: Update views on services and how your school can take advantage of them
    • Sean O’Brien and George Loftus, Internet2
  • NAC board member updates
    • Marianne Chitwood, I-Light
  • Faculty Adaptation during stay at home orders: Teaching and learning challenges for faculty and students and impact of digital equity
    • Jessica McCrory-Calarco, Indiana University
  • E-Sports: What is E-Sports and how can you incorporate an E-Sports program at your school
    • Jennifer Oxenford, Kinber Networks
  • I-Light Network Updates
    • Tom Johnson, I-Light

Recordings of the event sessions are available here.

“I-Light is extremely grateful for the support it has received from its vendor partners and members throughout the past year. The community has truly stepped up and shown that when there is a need, they are willing to do whatever it takes to support each other,” added Chitwood. “It is what makes being a part of this community so gratifying and I-Light wants to make sure that we express our appreciation.”

More information on I-Light and its services can be found at https://ilight.net

About the I-Light Network
I-Light is the high-speed fiber optic network that connects Indiana’s public universities and private colleges. Managed by the Indiana University Global Research Network Operations Center, I-Light connects members to state, national and international research and education communities, enabling collaboration and discovery to benefit us all.