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Accessibility Week Day 4 Recap: Universities Amid COVID-19 (with NYU & WVU)

Universities and COVID-19 Coronavirus

RevBlogAccessibilityAccessibility Week Day 4 Recap: Universities Amid COVID-19 (with NYU & WVU)

Today David Ryan, a Media Strategist for West Virginia University, and Joe Rivera, a Media Production Specialist at the NYU School of Law, talked about how colleges are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Webinar Transcript

Sara Ciskie: (00:03)
Well, hello everyone, and welcome to our fourth webinar as part of Rev’s Accessibility Week. My name’s Sara Ciskie, I’m Head of Customer Success here at, for those unfamiliar, we’re a leading closed captions provider and partner with universities across the country, across the world to make their video content accessible. I’m joined here by Dave Ryan and Joe Rivera, and today we’re going to be talking about COVID-19 and how this has impacted their roles and how they took action to meet new accessibility needs and challenges head-on. So next slide.

Sara Ciskie: (00:37)
Before we jump into the content, we’re going to go over a few housekeeping items. So first of all, all attendees here are in view-only mode as this is a webinar. So don’t worry, we can’t see you or hear you.

Sara Ciskie: (00:49)
Secondly, very excited to announce that for this session, live captions are available. So to access those, just go over to the lower right-hand corner and click the closed caption button and then click show subtitle. That will pop the closed captions on there. These are powered by Rev AI, a machine learning algorithm that Rev put together, which is super exciting. To access this, to learn more about Rev Zoom live caption option, we’ll put some information in the chat and we’ll also include some information in the followup email that we send out as well. We will be sending out this recording with closed captions and slides in the next couple of days.

Sara Ciskie: (01:27)
And last but not least, we will be doing a Q&A session towards the end so feel free to put any questions you have into the Q&A button down at the bottom there. We will be keeping an eye on the chat and the Q&A, but bear in mind it is just us three people here trying to get all these answered. So we’ll do our best and try to get all those questions answered.

Sara Ciskie: (01:47)
So launching right into the content here. Hello, Dave. Hello. Super excited to have you here with us today. Tell us a little about who each of you are and what your role is.

David Ryan: (01:59)
So I’m David Ryan, I am the Social Media and Internet Strategist for Western University’s Health Science Schools. I also work with the main social team at the university. And I’ve just betrayed our first rule of muting notifications, so apologies for that. We, at the Health Science Schools, are responsible for all our health profession schools so we help with their web and social recruiting, and marketing efforts, and research news around that.

Joe Rivera: (02:23)
So I’m Joe Rivera, I’m the Media Production Specialist for NYU School of Law. So we are sort of a sub-department of the ITS branch and we focus on pretty much all aspects of production, everything from podcasts to online courses, event recordings and all of that sort of good stuff. We do a lot of studio work, pre-COVID, and we’re really sort of trying to deal with all of the things that now come with being in a work from home environment.

Sara Ciskie: (03:00)
Awesome. Well, perfect. We have several questions teed up here to start the conversation, but before we do that, as it is a fireside chat, I would be remiss if I didn’t start the fireplace, of course. So let’s pour some tea, turn on some Bossa Nova music, enjoy the fireplace as we dive in here.

Sara Ciskie: (03:17)
So open question for you both, how did your roles expand or change once COVID-19 hit and everything moved online?

David Ryan: (03:27)
So at West Virginia University, the first thing we did was we had spring break coming up so we had to decide whether or not we were coming back after that, how that was going to work, how the rest of the semester was going to work. So all the higher ups at the university led with that with our public health experts, looking at trends, and I think one of the main barometers was how Italy was doing because it had a similar population to West Virginia in terms of health problems. So we looked at that.

David Ryan: (03:55)
From then on, it was, “Okay, we’re not coming back, what do we need to do?” Our IT folks sprung into action, and we were able to put courses online with relative stress, but they managed to do it seemingly effortlessly, I should say. They’re a bunch of really talented people that helped that. We were able to get out communications regarding students, faculty, staff, what the rest of the semester would be, how we’d work from home, how we communicate remotely, how we can make sure we’re still meeting the goals of the university and the land-grant mission even though we’re not at the university. Just shifting to the “new normal”, which is the phrase just like unprecedented times that we’re all tired of hearing.

Joe Rivera: (04:39)
So pretty much the same thing. I mean, like I said, my job initially, pre-COVID, it was very based in onsite production, and when we sort of found out that we wouldn’t be on campus for a while, we wouldn’t be coming back for a while, our entire department sort of shifted focus. A lot of people were re-tasked mostly with IT support and making sure that not only classes were running online and running properly, but all of our other administrative tasks and all of the other centers at our school had the resources that they needed to be able to keep doing the work that they were doing.

Joe Rivera: (05:19)
So obviously I said, we built out a studio and we do a lot of work in there. We haven’t been there in four months, but that’s not to say that some things were removed and my plate has sort of freed up. We’ve had a whole new set of challenges to try and parse out what’s the best way to get through this and what’s the best way to make sure that the students are still getting what they need, even though they’re not in the classroom.

Sara Ciskie: (05:49)
Yeah, absolutely, lots of new things to take on, lots of new challenges. So even though the fireside chat is still going on, I am going to stop the screenshare and stop the fire, I’m in Texas and it is a hundred degrees outside.

Sara Ciskie: (06:04)
So second question I have here, so Dave, I am going to use the new normal phrase. Sorry in advance. What was the most difficult thing about adjusting to this new normal given all of the different variables that you have coming in now?

David Ryan: (06:21)
I think we’re currently experiencing one of them in this format is the Zoom. We have everybody everywhere trying to communicate the same thing, trying to meet the same goals, and the biggest challenge, I think, has been making sure we’re all aware of what each other is doing in the best possible way, remotely. Because we can’t communicate that we’re going to be back on the campus soon if we don’t have all the relevant departments in the same level of awareness where you could usually see someone walking by on campus and let them know, or you could schedule an in-person meeting, or you just phone them up real quick. Zoom has been both a blessing and a curse in the fact that everybody wants to have meetings now, but we don’t always have the free time because everything is going on at the same time.

David Ryan: (07:04)
So the biggest challenge has just been coordinating all that together and making sure that we are all on the same page, because this is one of those situations where there is no room for error. There’s no room to deviate from what needs to be done, what needs to be communicated. There’s very little margin of error in how you have to handle a situation like this to instill a sense of safety and confidence in your organization. I think through the command structure that WVU’s put up with different task forces and groups, our communications folks, our social team, health sciences folks, our partners at W Medicine and the state, I think we’ve really done a great job of coordinating that.

David Ryan: (07:44)
But it has been a challenge because there’s not enough hours in the day, you don’t want to be stuck in your kitchen on your computer all day. You just have to separate that work life balance as much as you can, while still meeting the ongoing demands of COVID-19.

Joe Rivera: (08:01)
Biggest challenge? I would say for us was sort of reducing the learning curve from a technical standpoint. Everybody always has a varying degree of comfort with technology, there are some professors that really need no help whatsoever, and there are some professors that need to be told what an internet browser is. I mean, the truth is that’s the case no matter where you go, but now that we’re in this situation where we are relying so heavily on technology, one of the biggest challenges was sort of flattening that learning curve with a lot of our staff and faculty.

Joe Rivera: (08:42)
We sort of took the opportunity to switch from more of a service model to a consultancy model and really tried to push a lot of self-sufficiency on a lot of our faculty, students, and admin. That has been a challenge, but I would think that we have been fairly successful. Like I said, for us, our IT department, everyone was sort of deputized to be taking support calls and walking people through, “Okay, now we’re doing class in Zoom while it has to be recorded, how do you go about doing that?” “It has to be done through the right channels and it has to be seen by the right people.” So really getting everybody on board and understanding, not necessarily even what these tools are, but the best way to use them to keep moving forward.

Joe Rivera: (09:32)
Like I said, we were fairly successful in that endeavor, but it’s always evolving. It’s always changing. Even this upcoming fall semester, we have some professors that weren’t teaching in this last semester that now sort of need to go through everything that we had just gone through when COVID started. So yeah, I mean, that’s probably one of the biggest challenges that we faced.

Sara Ciskie: (09:58)
Yeah. It sounds like getting everyone up to speed, all the stakeholders that are responsible for student education, there’s a lot of moving parts to coordinate here.

Sara Ciskie: (10:08)
So giving each of you a chance to have a little bragging moment here, what are some things that your school has done that you’re really proud of as far as giving students the accessibility measures that they need during these times?

David Ryan: (10:19)
So when we think about accessibility, we always think all subtitles, all text, all that stuff, but it’s mainly just about making information available to the widest possible audience in the way that they need it. So if you take it away from, “Oh, accessibility is just one thing that I need to remember to do”, as opposed to, “How can we get all this information consistently using the right images, using the right text throughout everything?” It follows through.

David Ryan: (10:44)
I think one of the biggest successes that we’ve had is our coronavirus resource site. We put it together in about a week. We had an existing structure for our website and we were able to tweak that, figure out what audiences we had, figure out what resources need to be there, and they were able to get that information out. It’s a behemoth now because it was announcements, it was news, it was research, it was faculty policy, it was student policy, it was literally everything with a coronavirus picture, but we tried to make it as accessible as possible and make sure that everything was in the right tense and the right links were available. I think our web team really smashed it.

David Ryan: (11:27)
And then also our social team really knocked it out of the park in communicating all these resources out there consistently. It’s hard to pinpoint one particular unit, but I’m just harping on the ones that I work with more directly, because it has been a university wide effort. But I know the social team really smashed it because we’ve really figured out a way to develop consistent branding and messaging that reflects what people will see on the site.

David Ryan: (11:52)
As we expand to our return to campus site, which is campus, I’ve got performance brain here, so that website is now transitioning to be that depo for information. And the coronavirus site is going to switch gears back to about coronavirus and medical resources and stuff like that. So I’m going to give a big, humble brag on our web team, our IT team, our social team, the marketers and the communicators that really pulled it out of the bag when the world was crumbling around us. We managed to get the information correctly, accurately and to the right people in the ways they needed it.

Joe Rivera: (12:36)
So very similar vein, I think sort of what we… Our IT infrastructure leading up to COVID made it possible for us to be as successful as we were starting off. So to walk through sort of how it started for us, we found out on Monday classes were canceled Wednesday and we were full remote on Thursday, so we didn’t have a whole lot of time. But because we had such a strong base to work from, it really was, I don’t want to say easy, but we were able to be incredibly successful.

Joe Rivera: (13:18)
We also have a learning innovation design team that was working around the clock to creating resources for not only the admin and the students and the professors, but for all of us in ITFs. We all have these sort of little pockets in the department and they all really were brought together through COVID. So we’re working with a lot of people that might not necessarily have a very good background in Zoom or online education because they’re mostly working with the actual hardware or… Like for me, for example, my background is in video production, and there’s a lot of very specific help desk, ITF support type things that I needed to be sort of brought up on. So what we had done in that week is sort of create this coronavirus taskforce to just get everybody on the same page.

Joe Rivera: (14:14)
We built not only a public-facing IT support site, but an internal one for us that was more so focused on, “Okay, how do we provide the services that we need to provide in the best possible, clearest possible way, making sure that we’re giving the correct information?” The truth of the matter is, is that all of this stuff is sort of evolving as the months go on. There have been plenty of updates to Zoom that have required us to update a lot of our guides, and a lot of our policies, and guidelines for a lot of our folks. Sort of just having all of those resources together and having such an open line of communication made it so that we were able to tackle all of our issues head-on. There are always those holdouts-

Joe Rivera: (15:03)
…or issues head on. There are always those holdouts, people that may still be having issues or just aren’t getting accustomed to having to teach in this sort of environment. And like I said, we at least had a really good base to be able to move forward with that kind of stuff.

David Ryan: (15:19)
I can add something to that too because I just wanted to give a shout out to our Teaching and Learning Commons department and unit at WVU that really filled that gap for instructing people how to use Zoom and how to put things online and work with our instructors to learn that. And it’s been a great resource for our faculty and staff as we adjust to that, especially because IT is a huge thing for us at the health schools, because we’re bound by HIPAA laws and restrictions.

David Ryan: (15:45)
So if you access any of our shared networks, you have to use very secure, very safe stuff, because obviously you don’t want the wrong people getting into patient information, which I don’t believe is anywhere accessible like that. But just to make sure that you’re nowhere near the risk of that, we have stringent safeguards and our people have been able to work really well around that and it’s just been crazy that people can coordinate this level of response this quickly and still manage to make this as accessible as it is.

Joe Rivera: (16:14)
To that note and this is sort of the one song that I will always, always sing is never, never, never underestimate your IT needs. For a lot of folks it’s sort of a second thought, but the truth of the matter is, is that your IT team is going to be essential in making all of this continue to work right. And there are a lot of unexpected concerns, a lot of things that pop up. We work on a lot of systems that require multi authentication or require to be on a very specific MOE network.

Joe Rivera: (16:52)
And our team is the team that’s making sure that you can still clock in and get your right legal work paperwork where it needs to be. I mean, even down to things like maintaining building temperature, right? Nobody’s in the buildings. So the buildings are starting to run hot, they’re starting to turn the AC off, but that actually then prevents people from being able to work from home. That hardware is actually overheating and all that stuff. I guess, the main takeaway sort of, of that is that there are a lot of technological concerns that go into making this happen and I can’t stress how important that kind of thing is in this scenario.

Sara Ciskie: (17:36)
Yeah, absolutely. After speaking with lots of different stakeholders at universities and administrators, it’s become very clear to me that having a centralized tech stack and really having that under wraps is extremely important, right? Just having a really good tech backbone, right? And not having that to be an afterthought, right? So question specifically for Dave here. Dave, I know that you were recently involved in announcing going back to class. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

David Ryan: (18:07)
Yeah. So the web address that I messed up, but I sent in the chat to redeem myself, catch title, it is where we’re putting all of our information and we’re releasing it in stages because there’s so much information and so much information that could be subject to change if things get better or worse. And we wanted to put it out in a single place. So every week we’ve been doing these updates featuring different aspects of the university experience and how we’ll make sure things are safe, holding live campus conversations that I believe utilize the closed captioning from Zoom inside. And we started off with an overview of what the response was, what academic affairs will look like, what campus safety will look like, student life and then one that touches close to home will be next week, which is public health and safety. We’ll be going through all key dates and what kind of hygiene we’ll have, symptom self-monitoring apps, everything. And if you want to see kind of what WVU is doing to lead this effort in this communication, visit the website I put in the chat and we can make available afterwards. But we’ve tried to stagger it in a way that’s kind of easy to understand so we’re not flooding you with a ton of stuff and then giving you an essay at the end of it and trying to remember it all. So again, it’s making sure information is accessible and understandable and digestible in a way that if you have questions you can ask us. So you won’t be totally shocked when you get here. The last thing we want is no one to know anything and then see an entire wall of masks and have no idea what’s going on.

David Ryan: (19:44)
You’re going to have to wear a mask, here’s why, this is why it’s for your safety. If you want to come back to WVU, all it takes is doing the same stuff. So if we can get the information out there in an easy to understand way, at one place, it’s been great. And that effort’s been supported through our live streams, through Zoom and using the captioning, but also through emails and mailers and social campaigns that we just did a university WVU maskot. We love our puns. So you can see our mascot is wearing a mask. but we’ve started this campaign on the social team where you can sign up to get a free WVU mask or gaiter before you get your ones when you come back to campus and we’ve had about 700 people sign up for that since yesterday, where they kind of be our mask ambassadors.

David Ryan: (20:32)
Hopefully, they just don’t want to free mask and are actually going to help us out. But in the effort to normalize how strange the fall’s going to be, getting the information out there as openly and transparently as possible in a way where people know what’s coming, I think, has been a real help to that. And they kind of identify the key stakeholders. So Clay Marsh who is our Vice President of Health Sciences, he oversees all the health schools, but he’s also leading our state response to COVID-19 in coordination with different units. So he will be at our July 7th update. I think we’re doing a call on the eighth and he’ll be there.

David Ryan: (21:06)
So faculty, staff, students, employees, parents can come and watch and see the people that are actually making these decisions. And it’s all about building that trust and making, I’m going to say it again, making these people accessible to people because we can’t just give a wall of information and expect a resonating response. We need to make sure they can see who are making the decisions, why they’re making them and hopefully we come back to campus safely and safely.

Joe Rivera: (21:37)
Actually, a quick followup on that. And I know I keep harping sort of on the importance of the technical aspects of all of this stuff. So for us, we are not sure whether or not we are going to come back in the fall on site. We’re still sort of waiting from state guidance and then from the university at large and then we need to make the decision for ourselves as the Law School. And sort of in that vein, we’re trying to figure out, well, if we are going to be full remote, we have to do X, Y, and Z and there’s this set of concerns. If we’re going to be in some sort of hybrid situation or we’re going to be at a limited capacity in the fall, that brings up a lot of very particular issues like, well, if we’re going to be in the classrooms, are the classrooms going to be cleaned out and sort of disinfected after every session? How much space needs to be in between? If we have 100 students enrolled in the class, how many can actually be on site?

Joe Rivera: (22:35)
And then that also goes into sort of like, well, what tech will we need to have prepared on site when we aren’t able to prep it the time that we normally were able to? So just, again, the importance of tech and understanding sort of what goes into coordinating these efforts and what is important in sort of getting everybody on the same page to be like, if tech is going to do this, facilities needs to do this, professors need to do this, and that’s how we’ll be able to proceed forward. But we’re also looking at, if we do go back, what goes back to normal, so to speak? Do we go back to having seminars and discussions and forums and all that kind of stuff or are we only going back for class? And all of those things, obviously, always have a certain set of technical concerns. But just quick note to that.

Sara Ciskie: (23:36)
No, that’s actually a perfect segue. So speaking of tech stack and technical concerns, I know that you recently switched video platforms, right? Which for those who have done tech migration might know it’s a long tedious, often, sometimes thankless process. Can you tell us a little bit about what your tech infrastructure look like? How did that migration go? Would you recommend doing it?

Joe Rivera: (23:59)
Sure. So a little bit of context. We at the Law School use Panopto and I cannot sing their praises enough. I really, really like working with them. We have had plenty of very particular education related issues in terms of auditing for classes and participation tracking and a few other technical things as well that weren’t necessarily features of Panopto, but we were able to communicate with them and work with them to make them features, if not for them at large, at least for us. So we were using one platform for our distance learning program in particular and we just felt that we weren’t really able to do what we wanted to do technically. So we put a real big effort into the last year for this distance learning program to move it over to Panopto where we had already been doing years of testing and years of use cases.

Joe Rivera: (24:57)
And thus far, we were sort of looking at a hard start for the fall, but obviously a week before spring break and we had to sort of scramble to get everything ready, we just did that instantaneous switch over. And the platform works in a very, very, very user friendly way. So we were able to sort of get all these professors that maybe only had a little bit of experience with it. We had the resources and the bandwidth to be able to get them sort of up to snuff. I mean, right down to the facts that Rev who, obviously, is our captioning and transcription service is integrated now with Panopto. So when it comes to making these classes assessable and making sure that we can provide those captions, it has just become just an absolutely worthwhile tool.

Joe Rivera: (25:51)
When it does come to a lot of the stuff on site like I mentioned, nobody’s there but these machines are running, and it’s summer in New York and it gets hot. And we normally have each classroom equipped to be able to record and put classes online. Whether they’re an online class or not, we always have that option available for students that either can’t make it or any of those types of things. I mean, like I said, the big thing that we really did specifically for the distance learning program was switch to Panopto and where a lot of professors may have not been using that resource before, they definitely are now and it is definitely within the blood of the tech infrastructure for us as a Law School.

Sara Ciskie: (26:43)
That’s awesome. So do either of you or both of you have any success stories or best practices that you’d like to share with the audience here?

David Ryan: (26:52)
Yeah. I just kind of wanted to spotlight some of the stuff we’ve done. We talked about web and making sure that stuff was accessible. And I just wanted to kind of share the screen if that’s all right with everybody, just kind of show the WVU websites real quick because I will show anyone that listens and gives me the validation of that. So let me get my browser up.

Sara Ciskie: (27:12)
Full permission, share away.

David Ryan: (27:14)
All right. So this is our health sciences website. We just refreshed this and launched it in February. Because all the schools have different sites so we know that people aren’t coming to our health sciences site to find information about attending medical school, they’re just going to Google W Medicine School. So we wanted to make sure that this was a showcase of everything we do to give back to the state, to fulfill our land grant mission, to showcase our expertise and what drives us at the health sciences.

David Ryan: (27:40)
So when coronavirus came, we had a website platform ready to go that was adjustable. So as you see, it mirrors the main site but it’s strictly coronavirus. Because of that, we were able to adapt the website and get this up in about a week. This information is just everything about the view, one repository for information. We’ve got some expert videos here, which thanks to Rev, I didn’t have to listen back to my awkwardness and transcribe or have to worry about captions on my dying laptop. So cheers to that. Premiere hates me when I do captions. So thank God I can use Rev. And then we will have all our information there. We make a lot of resources available to our media folks, including those videos with captions that we can make available to them, utilizing our expertise and really getting a lot of stuff out there.

David Ryan: (28:30)
We had our Mountaineer mascot wash his hands for 20 seconds at basketball games before the outbreak caused us to retreat into our homes, just to demonstrate how long 20 seconds is because it’s quite a long time. And we have been updating this through our partners at WVU medicine. Kathy Moffett is a rockstar now. Dr. Kathy Moffett, she’s in all these thumbnails because she talks very clearly and openly and honestly about coronavirus and staying safe. So we had this website done and then we’ve also launched a new podcast utilizing our expertise. We know that there’s a billion podcasts out there right now talking about coronavirus. But so many of them are just like everything in the news where it just floods you with so much information at one time that you kind of forget what you knew about already or you just zone it out.

David Ryan: (29:18)
So we launched an entire new podcast. I know you’re going to hear new podcasts and just think, Oh God, not another one. But we stripped this down to one issue at a time utilizing our experts here. And we’ve done about three of them so far. We’ve got about four or five in the tank ready to go, but we did a very basic explainer of what COVID-19 is with Dr. Costello, who is another pediatric specialist at WVU who’s a rockstar helping us out get answers to people. She’s really great, big with the families that bring patients in and their kids in. And then talked to our RNA expert, Dr. Ivan Martinez, who really just blew my mind with what he knew. And I think it was so important to have these discussions where we strip it-

David Ryan: (30:03)
So important to have these discussions where we strip it down just to one issue. There’s no politics, no ideology, just what this virus is. And then we talked to Clay Marsh, our vice president for health sciences, who’s the state czar. And we make these people again, accessible to the wider audience in a way that isn’t talking points or bullet points, it’s just what you need to know about this stuff.

David Ryan: (30:22)
And one thing I’m particularly excited about, and our web team was able to do, was enable us to include transcripts, which is something, again, I rely on Rev and the AI because without the AI, we wouldn’t have… The podcast is easily done so quickly. So if you haven’t used the live captioning AI or the live transcription AI, I think it’s about 80,90% accurate, is that right, Sarah?

Sara Ciskie: (30:44)
Yeah. Depending on the audio quality, but that’s a fair ballpark.

David Ryan: (30:49)
Yeah. So we recorded interviews in Zoom, audio that you’re hearing from Sarah, Joe, myself, it was able to get a transcript that we could understand and fully go through and parse out what quotes we wanted, we wrote around that. And then when it came time to be finished and the audio was a finished episode, we upload it to Rev to transcribe because if you have a podcast, if people can’t hear and they have that impairment, then they’re going to miss out on your content. And this is very important information, we’re utilizing our expertise, we’d want people to get it any way they can. So we were able to load our names in, they were able to check against profiles. They even did some research I didn’t know that they were going to do and getting some specific titles out of our website, so that was amazing.

David Ryan: (31:32)
And I think the turnaround that was like four hours. I was relying on it being later so I wouldn’t have to do my part till tomorrow, but thankfully that was in there way sooner than I thought. Sorry, Joe, I’m going to keep going for a second.

Joe Rivera: (31:46)

David Ryan: (31:46)
But our social team wanted to establish a format of what people should talk about with coronavirus and how they should talk about it on social, so we really came up with this tool kit for communicators at our school that could use these images and these takeaways and what kind of posts to use as information changed about coronavirus, like originally sneezing was on the WHO list, but now it’s not. So we want to make sure that that… And now it’s back on there again, I think, but originally sneezing was not one of the three symptoms.

David Ryan: (32:18)
So we wanted to make sure we had a consistent style for coronavirus stuff. So it didn’t look like everything else. We wanted to make sure that you had example posts that you could use as all texts so people didn’t lose what was in the image and where to link to. And then one of the great things that Morgan on our social team really kicked off was the mental health aspect. We can give everybody the symptoms in the world, but if you don’t talk about your mental health too, that’s a real problem. So she worked with our career center for mental care on some of these tips and pieces of advice that are brighter in tone, they have a different format, but they’re using consistent imagery. We established pretty early on that we wanted to create a visual language. So now all these icons and this style are on the return to campus site. They’re on all our info stations, just as another kind of visual reminder.

David Ryan: (33:10)
And these are just some of the success stories we have. Obviously, just the fact that we’re able to keep giving a level of education to our students that makes them see value in us and the fact that we’re able to work from home and trusting each other to work from home and still be delivering that level of quality, I think is a bigger success story than anyone could hope for in this time. I had a few things I wanted to share with the group and hopefully my people feel valued now because sometimes it gets lost in the mix of everything that’s going out there, as we say, these challenging times, they are challenging because there’s so much out there, but terrific collaboration amongst our teams to get that together. Pat on the back for them and hope you guys benefit from that at all.

Sara Ciskie: (33:55)
No, that’s amazing. I think what’s so great about that is it’s not just a resource for the university, but for the greater community in West Virginia at large, that’s just so amazing. Joe, turning it over to you, success story to share.

Joe Rivera: (34:09)
A lot of our success stories come in professors coming along in using all of these resources. To have a professor that doesn’t know what an internet browser is, to bring them from there to recording their Zoom sessions and distributing their materials online and fully being in this digital format. I mean, the biggest success story is the fact that we got through the semester and our 3L’s were able to graduate and take their finals. There is some question obviously as to how the bar will work in New York and obviously around the country, but the fact that we were able to get our students to that point is really the biggest success.

Joe Rivera: (34:56)
In terms of best practices to make that happen, a little bit of a generic answer, but communication is key. The communication wave length that we have with our dean’s office and with a lot of the other departments around the university is open and free enough that the things that nobody’s thinking about, that only we are thinking about get brought up, and vice versa. The things that we don’t really need to ordinarily worry about are brought to our attention. That way, we can accommodate all of those different things.

Joe Rivera: (35:35)
Even within our own department, like I said, IT had all these different branches, the web team, media production, event tech and learning innovation and design and bringing that entire team together with such an open wave length of communication and understanding support, not only for our clients and the people that we’re working for, but for other has been absolutely major. A lot of our team tends to be very forward thinking and very not just, “Okay, what do we need to do this semester?” But, “What do we need to do fall semester, five years from now?” Right now we’re really taking a look at, okay, the spring semester was our chance to bring everybody up to speed with the tech. And like I said, create this sort of self-sufficiency and allow us to become more of a consultancy model rather than a support model.

Joe Rivera: (36:38)
But the biggest piece there is, okay, well, we’re going to think forward. The spring was about the tech, the fall is going to be about aligning tech with the pedagogy, right? And now because I can’t remember what session it was earlier in the week, but I love this and I wrote it down, is that learning and online education is not Netflix. It has to go beyond just sitting and watching videos and hoping that your students are retaining the information. And so that’s what our big focus is right now, such that we can say we have a successful fall, to just be able to make sure that we are integrating a lot of those different techniques and a lot of those pieces of what makes learning a class, booking a class, to get the outcome that we’re trying.

Sara Ciskie: (37:34)
Absolutely. Well, we’re going to turn over to the Q&A portion now, thanks to everyone who’s already submitted a few questions in, please feel free to keep sending them in. Question for you both, do either of your schools have instructional designers or an instructional design team that helped move courses online, or was IT responsible for moving course content online entirely? And if you had instructional designers, how were they integrated and involved in the process of streamlining the transition?

David Ryan: (38:02)
So, I jumped the gun and answered the question because my hands are fidgety. So I answered the question in the chat, but we have a unit called Teaching and Learning Commons, which I mentioned earlier, but I think their website address is And they are really great in getting our eCampus system, which is what we use for online classes anyway, adapting course modules to that, working with our faculty and staff to address some of the challenges of that. And then on the health sciences side, we use a different system due to HIPAA reasons called [Soul 00:00:38:36].

David Ryan: (38:37)
So we have our IT team at health sciences that works with getting all that stuff involved, it’s a bit more nimble to where they’re able to do a bit of different stuff, but it’s often a collaboration between the faculty and staff and also the expertise because no one person has the right answer to everything. It’s just a marriage of what’s possible, what do we have access to? What do our students need? And then working with educational guidelines and accreditation stuff and making sure things are sound and responsible.

Joe Rivera: (39:09)
So similar vein, our unit is the Learning Innovation and Design, LID for short. And in terms of getting us to the point right now, they were completely instrumental. Like I said, one of our biggest challenges was getting everybody up to the tech and not just that, but like I said, we needed to know our stuff, we needed to know what exactly we were supporting people with and that we were telling everybody the right thing and giving the right information. And they have been really the leaders in this scenario right down to creating all of our support documents and our how-to guides and knowing exactly what issues we should be prepared for based on things that they had encountered in the past now that we’re in this scenario. But yeah, absolutely instrumental to the entire process.

Sara Ciskie: (40:05)
Fantastic. And then we have another question here from Paul, thinking about life after COVID, what’s one thing that came to fruition during COVID that you plan to use when things go back to business as usual?

Joe Rivera: (40:20)

David Ryan: (40:21)
Yeah. I’m muted, sorry. Go ahead, Joe.

Joe Rivera: (40:24)
Yeah. So I would say that sort of self-sufficiency is something that we’re really trying to encourage. That way, a lot of our texts can focus on the other aspects of what we are supposed to be doing. Like our [inaudible 00:40:40] we were just talking about is always working to increase engagement and focusing on the objective goals. And it’s a lot easier to be able to focus on those things when we know that the people that have to do them can physically do it.

Joe Rivera: (40:58)
Not just that, but there are a lot of technical things. Like I said, we in the middle of COVID made the switch to Panopto and that is really going to be a permanent change for us. And I think we have relooked at what exactly we want to do in terms of recording these classes, whether they’re an online course or it needs to be remote situation. Basically, what goes into the actual production of that, how we can create not only a better production quality, but like I said, increasing that engagement and finding materials that are more conducive to online learning.

David Ryan: (41:37)
I think for us, it’s been the revelation that there’s no greater emergency than the one you’re facing. How many times have you been told that you can’t do something because that’s the way we’ve always done it, and how quickly did that go out of the window on March 8th, which is when we started to go, “Oh God, this is really happening?” At least from my understanding what was going on, you have people that, like you said, didn’t know what a browser was and now they’re doing remote instruction, or remote grading, remote teaching. We often get siloed into our brains what is and is impossible, but I think what’s really shown is if you trust your team and if you trust your expertise and you don’t think only your way is the right way and you get out of that, “Well, this is my field. I know it better than anyone.” I think you can come up with some really creative solutions to problems.

David Ryan: (42:29)
And trusting in your people. Our social team does a phenomenal job because they know that we trust them to run their platforms. And we know that they’ll follow the guidelines when we set it out, we know that they’ll message responsibly, our communicators know that we’ll give them resources when we need them to do stuff and how to post and our web team knew to just go ahead and start building because we had that trust with them. And I think just knowing that your shared sense of purpose really elevates you in these times and that sounds like a horrible bumper sticker or inspirational live, laugh, love poster, but if you have that trust and that institutional segmenting of responsibilities and you trust those people to do it… I mean, online courses were one thing, but this is in person classrooms in a Zoom browser. So this all changed dramatically.

David Ryan: (43:25)
So just having that respect for your students, respect for your staff. I think that’s really, really, important. And I think hopeful, if there is another after time of COVID-19 where we can get together, we realized that A, not every meeting needs to be a meeting, it can be an email, that we are able to work remotely and get that quality of stuff done, that we have resources, like Rev, that can take care of a lot of the stuff that really consumes a lot of time. And that we have that belief in our institution to say, confidently, “We’ve got the expertise that’s going to keep you safe. This is the expertise that’s going to keep our state going,” and just trusting in ourselves a little bit more and believing we are as good as we are.

Joe Rivera: (44:15)
I definitely could not agree more with the sentiment.

Sara Ciskie: (44:20)
Awesome. So another question come in, directed towards Joe. You mentioned that getting everyone on Zoom and do tech in general was a challenge, did you or NYU have to spend a lot of time training faculty and students on how to use it?

Joe Rivera: (44:34)
Yeah, yeah. It would be difficult for me to say that it’s something that is over, or something that we have overcome because it’s always an ongoing thing. I’m thinking of the right way to phrase it. We did a lot of training sessions in person while we still had a couple of days on-

Joe Rivera: (45:03)
We did a lot of training sessions in person while we still had a couple of days on campus. We made sure that all of them were recorded and captioned. We got those transcripts, thank you Rev, to make sure that it did go out to anybody that couldn’t be there. And like I said, we have an open line of communication to these professors. The entire ITS department, whether you are with our help desk or not, is now getting help desk phone calls, right? So anybody can pick up the phone, talk to a professor, walk them through it or walk them through whatever they need to be doing. And we received all of that same training, I mean, if not even more, right? We sort of had to train our entire team in, okay, here are all the things that could go wrong, here’s the best way to troubleshoot it.

Joe Rivera: (45:46)
Here’s the best way to deal with a difficult client or deal with someone who really doesn’t understand this kind of stuff. I mean, I know one particular case that I had, was about an hour long and the professor just needed to download a Zoom recording, that was it. But it took that much time to sort of really get through and get through the training. So I think having a well-trained support staff and making sure that… Like I said, we have a very open line of communication so if somebody needs a break, or somebody is feeling a little burnt out, or somebody has a little too much on their plate, we had enough people to really fill in those gaps and it really gives everybody the opportunity to sort of stay calm and walk through what is essentially a really difficult phone call, right?

Joe Rivera: (46:41)
I mean, there is something lost in communication when you aren’t face to face, especially when you’re trying to walk someone through something so technical. I mean, this is a very simple example, but I could, if you were here, point to a computer and say, “This is your USB port.” But doing that over the phone or doing that over a Zoom session or something is an entirely different method of trying to get someone to understand what you’re trying to get them to understand. So yeah, I mean, really a lot of our training efforts were absolutely imperative. And like I said, I’d like to think that we were able to pull it off. Our three [inaudible 00:47:21] graduated and we finished out the semester, finals went through and we were all set. So yeah, in terms those training tools, they ended up being imperative.

Joe Rivera: (47:35)
It’s never a send it once kind of a thing, it is something that you will always be referencing, always be sending out to people. And like I said, even our internal support site for us, it’s always being updated. I’m always checking it because there’s a million things happening and we have a million different systems integrated into each other and to have one sort of central place to be able to say, oh, right, okay. I’m not exactly sure how captioning process works. You go here and, oh, okay. It’s integrated through Panopto and this and that and the other and all that stuff. So the actual training of everything is one of the most imperative parts.

Sara Ciskie: (48:12)
Absolutely makes sense. It sounds like you have an amazing team that really was able to work together and support each other.

Joe Rivera: (48:18)
We really do. I mean, I can’t sing their praises enough. And it’s a difficult situation all the way around. There is a lot of discomfort. I mean, there’s obvious discomfort for everybody, but there’s a discomfort in sort of having to be in a position of, okay, well, I don’t normally support this sort of a thing, but now I do need to be, and the fact that we have each other’s backs in that situation just makes it all possible.

David Ryan: (48:48)
I think one of the things off to that point is, I know so much about COVID-19 now that I think I’m going to medical school, just because I don’t want to waste this information. I know about the auto immune response that’s taking over people in a way that I never really understood worked before, but now that is part of my daily job and in intake, and understanding why masks are vital and communicating that. So playing that level of naivety has really gone out the window as I’ve had to become somewhat competent at medical stuff, and that’s been a changer.

Joe Rivera: (49:29)
[crosstalk 00:49:29] very similar vein with that. I’ve talked a bit sort of about pedagogy and actual engagement in all these things, and where my background is normally the actual technical production, because that component is so drastically different and so drastically downsized, I’ve had the time to be able to focus on those types of things, which really only makes our end product, once this is all over and once we’re back, even better.

Sara Ciskie: (50:02)
Absolutely. Question here for Dave, you mentioned you guys were doing a staggered approach to announcing the return to class. How have the announcement’s been received by your student body and what’s the overall sentiment there? Dave, I think you’re muted.

David Ryan: (50:18)
I have three podcasts and I can’t turn a mic on. Every time, I get caught out for this. So I swear, people watching at home, I am somewhat competent and professional. But I think a lot of the information has been well received. There’s a lot of questions, but it’s about putting that information out there and getting those questions back, because that also maybe identifies some gaps in the content that we put out there, maybe some concerns that we didn’t have. Our dean of students, Cory Ferris, today brought up a really excellent point that I hadn’t considered in my messaging is, when you get back to campus, you may want to bring some wipes because those are out of stock immediately the first week you get to a college campus, because everyone’s buying… It used to be ever almost buying coax cables back when we used to have cable TV. For the younger people, that was before Netflix. Power cords go, snacks go. So yeah, adding that in about having some cleaning materials yourself is a really good thing that we hadn’t considered. So just putting that information out there is really good because we don’t know that we don’t have all the answers because we only know what we need to think to communicate. And these announcements let us parse this stuff out and as we get more questions in, it builds that knowledge base and it allows us to address concerns that people may have had that we didn’t know about, or we may be overlooked, not for a lack of awareness of that stuff, but it just may have not been communicated properly. And it’s all about building that trust with that audience. And allowing it to be segmented really gives that stuff time to breathe so people aren’t thinking during a safety summit, they’re thinking about, when can I move in, because that’s not the topic this week.

David Ryan: (51:58)
But send us an email, returntocampus@, burned in, and then you get to know that information and we can put it out there for everybody else. Because I always say, there’s no dumb questions, except when I ask them, but there’s no dumb questions because someone else has them and someone may benefit from that. So just ask us, the worst we do is I forget to answer it, or it just gets lost in the mail, but we get back to you soon. So having that staggered approach really does clarify the messaging.

Sara Ciskie: (52:28)
Absolutely. So we are just about at time here. I want to be respectful of everyone’s day, but I know that you’ve given us tons of pieces of information for us to all take home and really apply to our own situations, right? As we wrap up, is there any one piece of advice that you would leave the audience with here?

Joe Rivera: (52:49)

David Ryan: (52:50)
No, Joe, go ahead. This is you, buddy.

Joe Rivera: (52:53)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, your IT team, just don’t underestimate sort of what goes into, not only the hardware, but just sort of the overall infrastructure of everything. It isn’t just sort of these Zoom classes and sort of making sure that our students are being taught to the same standard, but to make sure that all of our administration that makes everything else happen is able to work. So really don’t underestimate your IT team. And like I said, I’m always from sort of the mindset of, I would rather say something 10 times than someone only asks for it once and then sort of get it wrong. An open level of communication, not just within your own department, but with all departments, right? A faculty to IT, IT to faculty, admin to faculty, and all that stuff.

Joe Rivera: (53:58)
Like I said, we’re all thinking about a very different set of concerns. And on top of that, there’s this extra layer of, we don’t necessarily know what is going to happen so we’re sort of planning for all of these different eventualities. In New York, we really just hit phase two, but a lot of people feel that we’re sort of going to take a little bit of a step back, that our numbers are sort of going to increase and it’s really, really, really all about not just making your plans, but sharing those plans with the other departments and with the other people that you work with. That way, any issues that you’re not thinking about, that you’re not paid to think about, you’re not there to think about are factored into what you have to do.

David Ryan: (54:41)
Learn how to use the mute button because even though I am somewhat competent at my job, I always forget to hit the mute button in every meeting, and Nick from Rev just called me out for that. Thanks Nick. But also, again, just trust that your people want to do the right stuff and they want to help. I know it could be annoying now with emails coming in of like, hey, can I work on this? Can I help on this? Can I do this? I think that everyone’s coming from a good place of wanting to help. And then I think just realizing that you’re there to provide this information to people that are frankly scared. They’re scared about what the next few months are going to look like, they’re scared about coming back to campus. But it’s your job and it’s our job to say, we have expertise that’s literally leading our state response that is here at WVU.

David Ryan: (55:31)
And these are the same people that are keeping the state safe. We have thought about this for a very long time. We’ve put the expertise and the time into it and we have built a plan that thinks you are going to be safe here. We know what to do if something happens. We want you to have the best possible time. And it’s that trust in our leadership, our faculty, our experts, just having that trust and that relationship with your people really does pay off. So even if you think it’s like, this is my kingdom, I’m the expert in this, be open to other people’s concerns and comments. And honestly, questions are golden because they may bring up something you don’t know. And just trust, trust is the big thing.

Sara Ciskie: (56:13)
Thank you so much to you both for coming here, sharing your experiences, sharing your advice. Thanks to attendees for coming as well. We will be having another session tomorrow with ShareStream where we’re going to talk about university success stories. So come back and join us tomorrow. Thanks to everyone. Have a wonderful rest of the day.

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