APPLETON, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) — Much of the new normal created by the coronavirus pandemic is online.

Businesses leaders are formulating plans and making decision through video conferencing while teachers and students are navigating the world of remote learning and teaching.

Behind those shifts are millions of information technology professionals who are establishing and maintaining vital virtual connections.

“This what we train for in IT, to keep the business running in this time of need,” said Josh Thurmer, information technology director with Menomonee Falls -based Cousin’s Subs. “For me, I’m excited about it. Obviously we wish it wasn’t happening and we want everybody to stay healthy, but from an IT side we’re ready to work and ready to support the organization to keep them running.”

They’re also finding innovative methods to do business — ways that were triggered by the sudden shutdown of life and businesses as we knew it.

Faced with the prospect that all in store traffic could be stopped by pandemic mitigation efforts, Cousins developed, implemented, and trained employees to offer curbside pickup — and they did it in two days.

“If we have happy customers, then all the work that IT, marketing, training, put into everything we’ve done during this time makes it worth it,” Thurmer said.

At Lawrence University in Appleton, the information and instructional technology departments were a vital resource to staff and students as the university moved to remote learning in just a matter of a few weeks. Virtual classes started April 6.

While the campus is empty, students still have access to one of the cornerstones of college life — the library. They can access electronic databases and books or electronically chat with staff about approaches to research projects.

The library offered online materials, but that need has grown exponentially since the pandemic closed campus and sent students to homes around the country to continue their education.

“I’m not sure we’ll ever go back completely to business as usual,” said Library Director Peter Gilbert. “I think we’ll continue to have a sort of blended library. Part of it is online and part of it is face-to-face with physical materials…. We may end up doing more electronically and more online than we use to. People get use to the tools.”​