From left to right, Ted Brodheim, Global CIO Adviser at Zoom, Jess Evans, Deputy CIO and IT COO at ASU, and Matthew Gunkel, CIO at UC Riverside, discuss how they're using Zoom on campus.

Oct 26 2022

EDUCAUSE 2022: Universities Scale Post-Pandemic Hybrid Environments with Collaboration Tools

Using lessons learned from the public health crisis, universities have expanded their use of Zoom to support hybrid initiatives.

In an EDUCAUSE panel discussion, representatives from Arizona State University and the University of California, Riverside explained how they’ve evolved their use of collaboration tools from the early days of the pandemic to today.

In the “Hybrid Learning at Scale: Digital Transformation of Classrooms and Learning Modalities” session Wednesday at the 2022 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Denver, Ted Brodheim, global CIO adviser at Zoom, led a discussion between Jess Evans, deputy CIO and IT COO at ASU, and Matthew Gunkel, CIO at UC Riverside, on how their use of Zoom has transformed on-campus learning, as well as its future applications.

Remote and Hybrid Learning Has Evolved Since Early 2020

“We had to pull major solutions over the goal line in tiny amounts of time,” Evans said about ASU’s response to the pandemic restrictions. The university was already using Zoom, but on a much smaller scale than it does today. When the pandemic arrived, ASU converted 900 classrooms in just a few weeks, according to Evans.

As part of this rollout, ASU offered three different levels of the Zoom service, ranging from fully integrated Zoom Rooms to what they called “Zoom kits,” which provided each faculty member with a camera, microphone and laptop. The university also purchased 3,000 laptops early in the pandemic to loan to students, Evans said.

Today, as surveys continue to indicate a growing desire among students for hybrid and remote learning options, ASU continues to lean in.

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“Our students are demanding different ways to learn,” Evans said. Students know the capabilities exist, so they’re asking to attend classes remotely and for recordings of past classes to aid in retention and improve learning outcomes.

To that end, ASU students are also looking to use Zoom in applications outside the classroom, whether that’s for club meetings or group classwork, Evans said.

UC Riverside took a similar approach during the pandemic, Gunkel noted, and the university is now exploring ways this collaborative technology can extend its reach beyond the classroom to meet student and faculty needs.

Collaboration Tools Have Applications Beyond the Classroom

Gunkel said UC Riverside previously was operating with disparate phone and chat platforms that didn’t integrate well with each other.

“We thought, ‘How can we really holistically bring this singular, cohesive experience around communication to our community and to our population?’” he said.

Moving to this cohesive platform had accessibility considerations, as well. Eliminating as many barriers as possible brings a level of equity to the collaboration experience.

“This really is about access,” he said. “We’re an extremely diverse population. We have to think about how we can provide these solutions to our students and how we can seamlessly put them together, not only with their learning environment but also with the ways in which they want to communicate.”

The answer was found within the Zoom platform. UC Riverside is in the process of expanding the university’s Zoom footprint across campus and beyond, especially as remote work continues to grow.

UC Riverside’s administration is supportive of the move toward hybrid working and learning, Gunkel said, so initiatives are underway to help connect this evolving hybrid community. By employing solutions like Zoom phones, kiosks and virtual call centers, UC Riverside is facilitating a hybrid environment that integrates with the technology the university is already using.

Institutions Can Expand Their Footprints with Collaboration Software

Evans joked that ASU’s end goal is “world domination” as the university expands its presence across the country, internationally in 33 countries, and even into the K–12 sphere through a feeder school. The university has a goal of 1 million learners in 10 years, but she notes it’s not feasible to expect that many people to show up to campus in person.

“It gives you another opportunity for freedom and flexibility that didn’t exist before. And at ASU’s scale — 165,000 students — we need that freedom and flexibility,” she said. Having a collaboration suite allows for this engagement and connection without having to modernize classrooms or complete costly construction projects.

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Privacy, Security and Accessibility Features Evolved Over Time

At the onset of the pandemic, many online teaching spaces were exposed to so-called “Zoom bombers,” either students or outside entities logging in to remote classes with ill intentions. At first, Evans said, it took some scrambling to understand how to moderate and secure online learning spaces. Eventually, Zoom updated its privacy and security features.

“Once we got through those bumps in the road, it was so easy,” she said.

ASU updated its acceptable use policy to reflect the new online learning spaces, addressing things like harassment and class recordings.

Accessibility features also evolved over the time, with the inclusion of closed captioning, transcription and language translation features. ASU has its platform integrated with Amazon Web Services, which allows instructors and staff to use voice control when entering meeting rooms.

“Being able to have those integration opportunities was valuable, because that allowed us to reach everyone, which was our goal,” Evans said.

At UC Riverside, Gunkel said, implementing buttons and controls that enable different learning activities and scenarios helps streamline learning, particularly when the hardware is integrated with the software. Configuring cameras and microphones within classroom spaces that respond to collaboration tools builds on universal design principles that make learning more accessible.

“I think that’s something we’re going to see come heavily out of the pandemic, which are these new kinds of spaces that people are crafting and creating,” he said. “It allows faculty to manage the learning, not the technology.”

Keep up with EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s coverage on our EDUCAUSE event page and via Twitter with the hashtag #EDU22.

Amy McIntosh/EdTech

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