During this period of increased remote work due to COVID-19, Juliana Perry (MS '09) is using skills that she learned from taking and supporting online classes as a Leep graduate assistant while earning her MS/LIS degree from the iSchool. Perry works as an enterprise project manager for the University of the Sciences (USciences) in Philadelphia.
"Mostly I focused on supporting the students and instructor, but that's a great way to see a variety of styles for interacting in a synchronous online learning environment," she said. "It also makes you very focused on the quality of the audio. I started back when GAs had to run the class via sound board and phone but helped with the transition to platforms like Blackboard Collaborate."
At the moment, Perry's main focus at work is serving as project manager for USciences' implementation of Workday Student, a student information system. As the project requires a very large team on both the university side and the consulting side, the coronavirus situation called for a change in how team meetings were held.
"We were already doing a number of weekly remote meetings—you have to for a project like this—but people tend to save some of the more potentially controversial or detailed discussions for face-to-face discussions when possible," said Perry. "They want to see facial expressions and cues more clearly and help people feel like they’re being heard, which can be hard to do in a remote environment if you’re not used to working that way."
Perry's Leep experience taught her to use the chatroom for less disruptive but helpful feedback to the speaker. When holding remote meetings, she considers people's specific styles and habits to keep things more interactive. "Those social components become really important to hold the team together and introduce new members," she said.
In addition, Perry tries to make her team feel supported while working remotely, assuring them that if something isn’t working, they will try it a different way and helping with equipment needs—"the iSchool's ITD office taught me the importance of a good headset!"
"I'm also thinking a lot about online pedagogy," she said. "Some of the challenges are more about presenting/teaching online in compelling ways and ways that work well in the medium."
Perry admits that, as someone in the IT domain, she has a distinct advantage for working remotely.
"We're now planning to do end-to-end testing of the system virtually. This would have taken at least a week onsite with the whole team, with several subsequent weeks of visits from the consultants throughout the summer," said Perry. "We've also tried some virtual social events (a lunch hour and board games). There is limited attendance, since all of us are juggling all kinds of personal and professional challenges right now, but it was clear that everyone appreciated the idea, and we may try it again as this goes on."