S1:E19 Joe Way – Progress in A/V

June 16, 2021 |  News, Students
32 min

Joe talks about how we have advanced education, universal design, and student satisfaction by using proper A/V resources.


Tyler Jacobson 0:01

Welcome to LabChats, a podcast from the team at LabStats. I’m Tyler Jacobson, your host for today’s episode. Each week, we’ll sit down with technology leaders in higher education to get the latest buzz and insights while we discuss current events, trends, problems and solutions. Now, let’s get into it. For today’s episode of LabChats, we are honored to be joined by Joe Way, he is Director of Learning Environments at University of Southern California, as well as recently joined as Chair [the] Board of Directors of the Higher Education Technology Managers Alliance. He’s been involved in higher education and audio visual elements of that in particular for a long time. And we’re honored to have him. So Joe, is there anything else in your background that you wanted to highlight before we get into the discussion?

Joe Way 0:55

No. Well, thank First off, thank you for having me on. It’s a pleasure to be able to talk to you today. And I think you summed it up right there. Yeah, I’ve had about 30 years and the pro AV industry starting in live entertainment through house of worship and higher ed now for a little over four years. [I’ve] been at USC now for coming up on Tuesday. I [actually] have five years in higher ed. Wow. So quite the change. And now looking at this really from a commercial integration side.

Tyler Jacobson 1:22

Excellent. So one of the things that I wanted to discuss with you is where you’ve been in higher education, how do audio visual elements fit in with the student experience and the teaching experience? And what resources are you needing to provide now that were never really common? Even a few years ago?

Joe Way 1:46

Yeah, no, that’s a great question. And you could say, really, even a year ago, because, you know, you would think about higher ed and the image of the faculty member who would say, you know, “You’re going to rip this chalk out of my cold dead hands. Don’t give me that technology,” You know, “Whatever, I don’t even want to use a laptop, I’m going to lecture to my students, and they’re going to sit in the chair, and they’re going to be happy with that.” And that is a real reality, especially R1 institutions that have the tenured faculty, and there’s no focus on online learning or needing to be effective at online learning, right? And that’s really where we saw a lot of the second and third tier institutions take off, right, because they invested in online education years ago, but it hadn’t quite gotten to where it was accepted, and then entered a global pandemic. And all of a sudden, you’re now putting all of this instruction into a virtual world. And over the course of the two years, our world has changed, right? We were all thinking early on about the pandemic, “Okay, we’re taking a break, and then we’re gonna come back.” And yet, now when we come back, we’re coming back into a drastically different world, both in like work from home, who knows who’s gonna stay virtual? You know, it’s just gonna be a different time. And this is where now technology is going to have to keep up with what is our new reality, right? There was just a poll put out by the Chronicle that said in higher ed, [an] average [of] 73% of college age students, after attending classes online for the last year, now want some form of their education in a virtual environment? 73%. That is incredibly high. And so what it tells us is that technology and pedagogy will now always be intertwined, right? We now need to have a faculty member understand that content delivery and how you do your content delivery is as important as your skills in your discipline, right? You can’t just be an expert in archaeology or cancer research and think that the information just comes out. You now have to be a technologist. And this is where we as AV are here to provide the tools for that to be effective, right? The thing I’ve been going around saying is, “UC and AV are now intertwined. We had AV and IT recently, and it’s now an interconnected world. And this is where we have to be able to provide that. And that kind of seamless and frictionless experience for our faculty across the board. It’s a whole different world. No longer in AV are we walking into a room and if there’s a problem having to think, “Oh, they just didn’t plug the HDMI cable in,” or “The projector lamp is out,”. We might have to actually go into a software component. It might be a Zoom setting or a Team[s] setting. It might be settings on their own computer, it might be a DSP audio routing issue. That is very different from “They didn’t turn the system on.” Right? There’s a whole level of different complexity that we’ve had to turn You know, as technologists.

Tyler Jacobson 5:02

Well, the level of complexity…for example, my…I love my father to death, he was a high school teacher. And he was there when they were starting to say you need to put your lectures on PowerPoint, and he had whiteboards that would slide from one side to the other. And he says, “If anybody ever asks, all of my lectures are on PowerPoint. Here’s slide one” And then he slides that board to the side. “And here’s slide two,” and he slides that board to the side. It was really difficult for him to make that transition to a digital presentation. How are you educating the instructors? Because I know that you’re going to have some that are very, very reluctant or they feel overwhelmed.

Joe Way 5:46

Here’s the thing: the faculty, I need to give props to them. Because when this happened [and] the pandemic hit, they had to come and step into something they were not comfortable with, right? They spent their entire career thinking about, “Okay, how…it’s me lecturing to students,” and now they’re in this weird place where they have to think about things differently. And this is where ‘hypercare’, high level white glove support comes in, but they have adopted it. And they now recognize if you think about our generational gap. The image of: it’s our seven year old, who can use our iPhones better than we can. Well, that’s different. Grandparents, and great grandparents know how to make a Zoom call now. Right? That’s the world we live in. And now faculty are used to having to do that. They know what sharing screen means and to ask for permissions and hitting the reactions. These are things that are very important and are a change in society. And now I think what we need to do is we think about how to support that. How can we now take what you do normally now, and can we make that effective in your learning environments? And so I really like things that we do 24/7, hands on white glove support. It’s interesting that we now have a…we no longer also have to walk into a classroom. Sometimes we support by calling into those their Zoom class, and taking over their Zoom setting. It’s an unrealistic way to think of support, but that’s where you can now [sit there and] go, “Let me walk you through all of these various elements that you do know in normal life now.” And I think that that’s been the biggest change, just in general, and that faculty have to have come to [a] recognition of that, right? They’ve had to, and I think they’ve had to, because if you look, when the pandemic hit in March of last year, a lot of it was just survival. And we’re gonna make it through the last six weeks, eight weeks of class, and the semester is over, and we go back. But now because that wasn’t the case, every school is now going through at least an entire year of online instruction. These skills have now been developed. And so you figure out that like how we’re going to help them move forward, is that we’ve earned a seat at the table, because we had to. We had to understand to be empathetic to a new reality they were facing, that’s also given us respect. And that’s that we’ve been able to align and be partners with them so that as we see these changes going forward, and when they do return to the classroom, and now it’s hybrid. Remember it was all in person and then it was all online. Now it’s a hybrid. We can actually be that trusted partner, and like I said it’s hypercare. 100%, people online in the rooms with them, calling into their class, attending class to help them through this, as they get that learning curve of what it’s gonna be like to have some people online and some people in front of them. And it’ll be an interesting fall coming up, that’s for sure.

Tyler Jacobson 8:53

And that’s very consistent with what we hear every day is that initial disruption was horrific. Like, it interrupted every element of education and every element of instruction. And people have figured out the process. And so as students are starting to come back to campus, are there lessons that you learn from that, that you’re incorporating into the on campus experience? So for example, we at LabStats provide maps that help students to see what computers are available in real time like digital signage. Are there elements that you’re able to pull over from pandemic disruption? That’s going to improve the on campus experience?

Joe Way 9:40

Oh, absolutely. Um, that was actually a great one. And we’ve done that too, utilizing wayfinding and utilizing just the normal…being able to see our computer labs, perfect example. Which one is taken, which one is checked out? Now, we can populate that to an online scheduler so people can come in and be able to check that out. Same thing on campus. We set these tents up during the pandemic so people can come and have study areas. So we utilize scheduling software in order to have that. Well, we can continue that forward. Other things are…pre pandemic, faculty never had to utilize… I mean, something as simple as: post your syllabus on Blackboard or Canvas. Like that was never required. And now, hopefully that never goes away. Being able to host all of your materials using a virtual library. Like half of our campus are old libraries that everyone would say, “You can never close the library,” well, we just closed them for a year and instruction just went on. Those things are now…we can rely and move to a digital world that way anyone in our classroom [can transition to digital]. What we can think of is: the whole idea of cameras and microphone[s], right? Everyone has their laptop [that] has a built-in camera and microphone. You know, we all took that for granted a year and a half ago? And when we would build a classroom, and the bill of materials was above the budget, the first things that we cut off the budget, and the scope was the microphone and camera. And now the first two things that have to go on every bill of materials and a new design is a microphone and a camera. And that will be no different. So those things that again, we took for granted, that came on our phones, that come on our computers are now integral parts of an actual learning experience. And that’s really going to be exciting and the ability…other things. For example, we’ve heard of faculty saying: “Hey, now that we’re all virtual, I can bring a guest instructor who’s a researcher out in the field somewhere around the world.” Maybe that doesn’t need to change. They would have never thought to do that ahead of time. You know, and last year, well, now they’re doing it all the time and coordinating among one another in their specialties. And it’s the students who get the value out of that later. So hopefully those types of things will continue as well. So it’s really neat to see. And it’s interesting that all these things existed before the pandemic, right? These are all things that probably everyone at every company and you and everyone was trying to sell advantages of. But no one recognizes it until you’re thrown into that world and going, “Oh, that was fantastic. Now can we keep that going?” And I think that’s going to be the key for tech managers who are on site. Not just [in] higher ed, but I think anywhere to have people recognize that all of these abilities, we need to keep. We cannot look at this as a temporary thing that we did to survive, but something that we should have always been doing to be effective. And now let’s keep that going.

Tyler Jacobson 12:48

I agree entirely. I’ve always thought that the times we learned the most is when we’re the least comfortable. And I think we’ve gone through a year and a half of being very, very uncomfortable. And so there are excellent pearls of opportunity that we can capitalize on that’s going to enrich our work lives, the education, the curriculum for years and years to come. One of the things that came to mind, as you were talking is: I’ve had conversations with several people on campuses, about universal design and accessibility. Has this disruption shaking things up enough that we’ve made steps forward as far as making this content available in multiple formats for people that either have learning preferences, or if there are limitations in ways that they can absorb material?

Joe Way 13:46

Fantastic question. And one that means a lot to me. So, you know, when we were going through our big upgrade, which started right before the pandemic, we were big on universal design and user-centered design. Bringing in our customers and finding out: how do you actually use the spaces? What do you need out of the space? And things as simple as height adjustable lecterns, right? For ADA, for accessibility. Sight lines, screen brightness? Like people, you know…assisted listening, all these things that we probably set up should have been in classrooms that we never necessarily always put in. Once we got online, it demonstrated the needs of others that could be hidden before. So, for example: [a] Zoom call isn’t great unless you can have closed captioning, right? Maybe live transcription? What about Wifii access? You know, we ended up starting a program for free Wi Fi hotspots for students who needed it. We had no idea how many students relied on the fact that we have had great free Wifi around campus. We thought they were just hanging out at the alumni park to take their class or study, or maybe head to the library because it was a social area to be with their friends. No, they were doing that because they could not afford Wi Fi at their house. Right? We didn’t realize all of these things that we provided that you assumed were natural for people, we didn’t recognize that sometimes people sit in the first three or four rows of class, because they need the screen right there. They need to be able to focus on the faculty member, because they’re reading lips, and things like that. You didn’t recognize those things until they’re gone. And what about it? What was interesting is we had a lot of faculty members early on in the pandemic, teaching surprisingly, with their cameras off. You would think of you know, the students be the ones [doing] that, [but] they’re the faculty. Because they didn’t want people to see their house, “This is my own privacy, I’m [not] going to teach you [from] here,” right? And I get it right, because it’s in the classroom, I don’t want you to see my house, I’m gonna turn my camera off and teach. But what about the students who needed lip reading? What about those students who needed the visual that now didn’t get that? And so equity is very important. Accessibility is very important. And these are things that we’ve had to catch on to. And it’s great to see all of the learning platforms really integrate these tools. And I will say there used to be tools that were very expensive. And now they’re actually being thrown in as features. And that’s kudos pretty much to us as an industry to say, “Look, this is important.”

Tyler Jacobson 16:39

Well, and I think that that’s fantastic. Because from the feedback that I’ve gotten a lot of the reluctance was that some of the professor’s didn’t want to have their lectures recorded. Or they felt like they were doing a disservice in some way for the students that were actually attending class in person, by providing for people that didn’t bother showing up. And I think that this has changed that mindset. And by default, things are getting recorded, which means that it can be made available in a way that it never was before. When I was in school, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, we didn’t even have laptops that we took the class with. The professor’s were giving lectures on those projectors that had the plastic that ran from one wheel to another. And if you miss something in your notes, it is gone. Like you either relied on other students to be able to get it, or you just missed that part of the information. And now being able to go back and listen to a recording or watch a video or get the transcript of these classes, I would have utilized that in many different ways when I was in school. And so I think that’s an exciting step forward that has been forced upon us due to the pandemic.

Joe Way 17:59

And I want to speak to that too, because I think it’s important. You know, as someone myself who has a PhD, so I understand intellectual property rights that the faculty members say like, “Don’t record my lesson, because it’s mine, I own it, etc.” Sure, fine, whatever. But I’ll say this as someone who is a fellow Dr. of theirs. There is nothing you’re teaching in an undergraduate class, [that] I cannot get by Googling it, period. Okay? [There is] nothing you are going to teach, [that] I can’t get by Googling it. It is not IP until you