Tech team puts in long hours during shutdown

Now working from home, staff focuses on eLearning support


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During the first week of the shutdown, Mrs. Gara Schommer was at her desk in tech support to assist students who came to campus to get help.

Nya Huff, Reporter

Thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, students now rely on eLearning for the rest of the academic year. Keeping teachers and students up and running behind the scenes in the school’s technology support staff.

The first form of eLearning was first implemented in 2012 when the school went to 1:1 technology for students and teachers. Technology and wellness coordinator Mrs. Gara Schommer said, “Going to all eLearning was going to be more about learning how to support it online and making sure we can reach everyone.”

When classes were meeting on the Hill, the tech support staff was available all day from their offices off the library. Now, that staff is working from home but continuing to assist students and teachers.

Application software specialist Mrs. Audrey Thornsbury said, “The tech team worked with our principal, (Mrs.) Julie Barthel, and the Academic Innovation Team to make sure that as many resources for teachers were available on Schoology to make the transition to eLearning as smooth as it could possibly be.”

There were also resources made available to teachers how to utilize tools such as Google Meets and Zoom, along with resources the school already had in place.

Director of technology Mr. Brian Haselby said that it is challenging for the tech staff during the campus shutdown to make sure everyone’s issues are addressed. Issues experienced during eLearning include using video conferencing, experiencing Schoology outage and putting information out on appropriate platforms.

Database and systems sdministrator Mr. Jim Wilkinson said he is working to “(help) teachers, staff and students remotely.”

To ensure the eLearning process goes well, Haselby said the tech staff has to “stay online more hours a day than usual” and work over the weekend.

Schommer also sent out the technology readiness survey and gathered the data needed to assist everyone and their needs.

The technology team said their workload shifted once the school shifted to eLearning. Haselby said that his workload is now “more time online, watching emails, trouble tickets and cyber news to make sure that we are safe and stay connected.”

Schommer said before the change to eLearning, she was focusing on handing out lanyards and getting ready for ISTEP testing, which now is canceled. She said, ”Now we are 100% support for educators and students. There are many video instructions to be made and best practices for this long of online learning.”

Wilkinson said his workload didn’t significantly change but the way he does his work did.

Thornsbury said the tech staff are also receiving many emails from students and teachers in need of assistance. She said, “Many of these emails come through night and day, so we have tried to be available even outside of normal school hours to make sure that everyone is up and running.”

Haselby said he and his staff receive anywhere from 30 to 50 emails each during a typical week from students and teachers about problems they are encountering. He said the most common email he comes across is about video conferencing.

Thornsbury said she’s also received emails about problems with attendance quizzes and Schoology issues.

Just like everyone else, the technology department also misses the Hill and has some worries while everyone is gone. Wilkinson said he has continues to be concerned about “supporting teachers, staff and students through final and other exams that happen during May.” All of their concerns about the eLearning had less to deal with the technology and more to deal with the seeing fellow educators and assisting students in person on campus.

Schommer said that her biggest worry while during the shutdown are “just missing out on the traditions that Cathedral offers and seeing everyone.” She also said she worries that some students will feel lost because they are not at on campus.

Everyone’s technology must be kept up to date and stay in the best condition as students and teachers rely on them to complete each day’s tasks. Thornsbury said, “Definitely continue to treat your technology the way you would if you were at school. Keep it charged, make sure your iPad is always backed up, your Notability notes are backed up, and always keep a case on your iPad to protect it.”