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Max’s Minute: Still Thinking Big: October 2020

Boise State CIO Max Davis-Johnson provides several exciting examples of how OIT continues to think big amid the COVID pandemic: from standing up a COVID testing lab on campus, to remote learning, new processes, to new management strategies for staying on the same page. Max also shares how COVID has made OIT more efficient in some ways and our organization’s experience with COVID fatigue.

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Video Transcript: Max's Minute: Still Thinking Big: October 2020

hi, this is Max Davis-Johnson, Boise State Office of Information Technology. Today, I’m sitting in Boise State’s COVID lab. And today I want to talk about COVID. I want to talk about some of the lessons we have learned from this. Not only as an IT organization, but a University.

Thinking Big

One of the things we’ve learned is that we can still think big despite COVID-19.

This lab is a great example of Boise State, our testing turnaround wasn’t very good, we had difficulty getting all the people tested that we needed to, so we decided we needed to do that ourselves.

And so now we have the ability to test people when we want. We can do large quantities. Plus, we can get a very quick turnaround on the tests which is very important for the University if we’re going to stay ahead of what’s going on with COVID and as we move through this pandemic.

OIT Continues to Think Big

From an OIT perspective we’ve continued to think big despite COVID. You look at the flipping of courses last Spring, and then all the work that was done over the summer to get classrooms ready, get the hybrid delivery model ready, get the online delivery models ready.

Again, a tremendous effort, as I’ve said before, not only of OIT, but the whole University.

We’re continuing to think big as we move from Blackboard to Canvas. That’s a new project that we’re kicking off. With the idea that we’ll be live on Canvas, Canvas is the learning management system that is the core of how we deliver content to students. It’s what faculty teach in. But we’re going to be transitioning from Blackboard to Canvas by next fall, the fall of 2021.

Again, a big ambitious project. We’re moving forward on the Sales Force initiative. Again, we’re trying to think big.

Rethinking Processes

One of the other things COVID has forced us to do, because our core mission is still keeping the trains running, it’s still laying new track, and still creating raving fans.

We’ve had to rethink our processes since most of us aren’t on campus now. We have to communicate more. We have to track better. We have to utilize all the tools we have to their fullest.

Obviously Zoom is a great example. We know how to use Zoom on campus, not just OIT, but faculty, staff, students all know how to use Zoom. And it’s a primary tool that we use.

At the same time using our ticketing system, ServiceNow. We’ve been able to do a lot more automation, make sure it’s routed properly.

And again, we’ve been able to improve, in some ways, our level of service even though we aren’t here, we do have a presence here on campus, but it certainly is nothing like we’ve had before.

The Distributed Workplace

I want to talk a little bit about what I call “the distributed workplace.” The distributed workplace is the option to work from a home or office location according to work requirements and personal preferences and the schedule that works best for the employer and the employee.

Working remotely has always been an option here in OIT. But moving forward I suspect half of our workforce, even after we’re through the pandemic, will continue to work remotely. I think that’s going to be all across campus.

We’ve proved that we can work remotely, we can be very productive, and in some cases even more productive.

From a University perspective, we formed a task force with representation from all across campus. They’ll be looking at what practices, what policies do we need in place to support the work, what guidelines do we need to put in place to effectively manage our new distributed workforce.

So remember: COVID has still allowed us to think big. It’s forced us, and forced isn’t the right word, but helped us become more effective, more efficient, in our everyday work. It’s allowed us in some cases to be even more productive.

Obviously, I look forward to the day when we’re no longer…we can meet face to face, we can engage. Because I certainly miss the interactions I have with staff, faculty, students here on campus. And I know you do too.

COVID Fatigue

I know also that a lot of us go through what I call COVID fatigue. We get tired. There’s some days we’re maybe not quite as motivated as others. Because we don’t quite know, we can’t see with clarity, to when it’s going to end. And that’s ok.

Look to others for motivation. Certainly talk to me. I’m available. There’s a lot of professional resources available here on campus.

But what always helps me is I think of, I remind myself, that Boise State is a mission-based organization.

We’re educating. We’re creating knowledge. And we’re doing community service. And being part of that mission-based organization always helps motivate me.

You look to your peers who are setting such great examples for us too. And I think looking externally certainly helps when we start going through these bouts of COVID fatigue.

We’re going to get there. I’m optimistic that we’re going to come out of this even better, stronger, and better positioned to serve as we move forward.

So anyway, thank you for listening. Until next time, bye.

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Max’s Minute is produced by the Office of Information Technology at Boise State University.

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