Coming Together

A devastating earthquake in Mexico City tests the resilience of students and faculty at Tecnológico de Monterrey

In September 2017, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked Mexico City. Hundreds were left dead, over 6,000 were injured, and thousands more had suddenly found themselves homeless.

When the dust settled at Tecnológico de Monterrey, three of the university’s buildings were wholly unusable, and many others had no power, water or internet connectivity. Faculty and students focused on helping others in the city, or resolving their own issues related to the disaster.

“The earthquake had a devastating impact, ” said Ciro Velásquez, an IT Institutional Architect at Tec de Monterrey. “Buildings were destroyed throughout the city, and everywhere you looked there were reminders of that terrifying moment.”

“But at the university,” continued Ciro, “we understood the need to do everything we could to restore a sense of order and safety as quickly as possible.”

Street view of Torre Latinoamericana from The Zocalo Square in Mexico City.

“Most of our professors are tech-savvy, so it was possible to shift many of the class activities online.” That was an important step, but students were without access to stable internet after the earthquake, or were living in temporary facilities.

“The people of Mexico City are among the most generous in the world,” said Ciro. “Anyone who could help, opened their doors to our students – other campuses, shops and cafes, even hotels provided quiet spaces and internet access for them.”

As the academic term neared its end, there was another problem to solve: how to administer end-of-course exams. Many faculty were familiar with LockDown Browser, which is widely used at the university to deter cheating in proctored environments, such as testing centers. But a solution was now needed for students taking exams from off-campus locations.

Tecnológico de Monterrey had recently piloted Respondus Monitor, which uses a webcam to analyze a student and their surroundings during an online test. With final exams just weeks away, the university set up a task force to manage the implementation of Respondus Monitor, and a second task force to train instructors. “Professors were glad to have access to Respondus Monitor, and very eager to learn it and use it,” said Ciro.

In the end, students were able to take their final examinations and to complete their courses on schedule. “Students didn’t seem to have any problems using Respondus Monitor,” said Ciro. “Most students were already familiar with LockDown Browser, so the addition of Respondus Monitor was very easy for them.”

University life has returned to normal at Tecnológico de Monterrey. And while face-to-face classes have resumed on campus, many instructors have continued to have students take online exams from off-campus locations. “Professors are now comfortable with the technology. And students like it because they have more flexibility on when they can take their exams.”

Ciro reflects on the days following the earthquake with a sense of pride. “The resilience and compassion of our people is remarkable. Even though they had been through so much, our professors weren’t afraid to try new things, and students were determined to finish their courses on time. We came together. We supported one another. For me, that’s the true meaning of an educational community.”