AV Technology content director Cindy Davis sat down with the AV/IT directors from eight universities to learn how they are approaching the 2021–22 school year. Some are returning to pre-pandemic status with few reconfigured classrooms for hybrid learning, others are all-in with hybrid, or HyFlex modalities, while others are in transition and planning for the future.
We’ve created a series of spotlights that provide an in-depth conversation with university AV/IT directors, which will be posted here on AVNetwork throughout September.
For a snapshot of all eight universities, plus industry thought leadership, and an extensive list of products for the hybrid and HyFlex classroom, download The Technology Manager's Guide to Fall 2021: The Hybrid/HyFlex Higher Ed Campus.
Spotlight on The Brookings Institution
Director of AV and Studio Services, The Brookings Institution
Q: Pre-pandemic, what percentage of classes (if any) were set up as hybrid or HyFlex? What are plans for fall classes?
A: Brookings has a very limited class schedule but does conduct hundreds of seminars and events to communicate the results of our research to targeted audiences and the general public. Almost 99 percent of our pre-COVID-19 classes, seminars, and events occurred on-site, with a very limited number of those that could be considered hybrid.
Less than 25 percent of seminars and events will be in-person for the Fall 2021 semester, but we are required to make all in-person events available to remote attendees.
In early fall we will be working with staff and integrators to build out facilities and train staff to produce hybrid events. Brookings streamed about 40 percent of events pre-pandemic; we expect to be streaming almost 100 percent of events in the future. Many events and seminars will continue to be virtual-only, as we discovered they were able to reach new audiences.
Q: Have in-person classes resumed?
A: Staff on-site is currently limited with no outside visitors, and 100 percent of classes, seminars, and events are virtual. Most events and seminars are convened on Zoom and streamed via YouTube to the Brookings website. AV technicians work from home, equipped by the company to produce the Zoom sessions and handle the streaming connection between Zoom and YouTube. We implemented the Zoom-to-YouTube connection to reduce the risk of Zoombombing and other hacks. Many of our guests are government officials or work in sensitive areas and they were concerned about Zoom’s initial lack of security measures.
Spotlight on 8 AV/IT Tech Directors
Q: In what ways is your department gearing up for the fall different than if the pandemic not happened?
A: Our organization’s business model is changing dramatically as a result of the pandemic and is still evolving. Our team will be dropping some services and providing some new services not offered before COVID-19. These service changes have forced a new analysis of facilities and staffing. The chip shortage and overwhelmed integrators are slowing our efforts to update facilities, and as a result, we are months behind where we would normally be to meet the usual Labor Day start. Once our organization expectations are finalized, we hope to be able to move forward at full speed towards meeting the new needs come September.
Q: Have more classrooms been outfitted with remote technologies specifically because of the pandemic?
A: We have a new mandate to outfit all conference rooms with standardized collaboration tools. Our IT group has standardized on Microsoft Teams for collaboration work; our events group has standardized on Zoom for events; and we have been working with IT to upgrade conference rooms throughout our campus with Yealink gear, which will support both platforms. Our event spaces will need additional help from integrators to outfit the rooms for hybrid events later in the year. Multi-use conference rooms will need auto-tracking cameras and microphone arrays. After 16 months of having close-up views of every virtual meeting participant—a single wide shot of a room of 25 people with push-to-talk microphones will no longer be accepted.
Q: Do you have advice for your peers on training faculty to use new hybrid classroom technologies?
A: Find the early adopters in each area and get them up to speed as quickly as possible. They will be your biggest advocates and can serve as trainers to others who are slower to learn or accept the changes.