There has been a wave of articles for teachers, schools, educational leaders, and higher education institutions who are rushing to bring their on-ground courses to online environments in the wake of Covid -19. Yet those who work in higher education operations – in departments such as Academic Affairs, Student Services, Program Departments, Support Staff, Registrars, and the like – may not find the same depth of resources relevant to their needs.

As post-secondary institutions migrate campus-based education and activities online, those in higher ed operations positions can benefit from the basic tools and strategies provided here.

Create a place for work in your home

Shelter-in-place regulations are here for the foreseeable future, and it’s critical you position yourself for success in your new work environment.

Configure your new work-station

Set up a desk area that includes a work-surface for laptops, good lighting, paper, and pencils (if needed). Next, ensure that the technology is set up. If you need WiFi with enough bandwidth to attend meetings or VPN (Virtual Private Network) access for Banner and other private systems, set those up as soon as possible so there is no interruption to your production. Download your school’s designated mode of communication such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, WebEx and/or Slack, and look online for helpful tips on how to use the tools.

Provide care, but minimize distractions

While many communities are “sheltering in place,” we and our colleagues, administrative leaders, and faculty find ourselves with children at home or caring for an elderly loved one. An obstacle for many of us is that there are others in the house which may lead to noise, distractions, and overall disruptions that you don’t usually encounter while in the office. Some may have children while others may care for an elderly adult. A few helpful tools to keep children occupied while remote work takes place can found here:

Draw upon what you already know

What you do each day is to collaborate, solve problems, and further the mission of your school. All of these responsibilities remain true.

Develop online resources for faculty and colleagues

Many of your colleagues are navigating the online mode of education delivery for the first time. Ensure you have the contacts for the Technology team, Learning Management Service (Canvas, Blackboard, etc.), and textbook access. If there is a Technology Learning Center, a Distance Education department or a Learning Design team that can provide navigation directions for the LMS system and the like, have them included in your resources. Screenshots and contact data would be sufficient. Keep this information handy in digital form to ensure that questions can be answered quickly and accurately – your organization will appreciate the ease of accessing the information.

Practice patience

Most importantly, have patience while being a resource. Some groups such as faculty or administrators may have additional questions or need additional follow up. Find a calm and reassuring way to communicate and continue that with those faculty and colleagues in need.

Keep current with trends

If you haven’t done so already, join some associations related to faculty, schools, and education. Sign up for their daily or weekly emails. As you find a relevant article, forward it to your team, faculty, and administration so they may benefit from the information. Leadership during times like these can come from anyone. Some recommendations include Inside HigherEd and California Community Colleges Outlook Newsletter.

Support the administrators and leaders

Providing both operational and emotional support for your administrators and leaders while they navigate the new normal is critical at this time. Find ways to help address questions coming into the department by providing those same resources mentioned earlier- Learning Management Service contact (Canvas, Blackboard, etc.), Technology and Online Learning Design teams – these are the most important contacts to have on hand. Most importantly, allow them the time they need to prepare for responses.

Stay connected and collaborative

The role of operations departments in higher education generally is for oversight and leadership, but the most important component to success is collaboration. Now more than ever, take the time to build on existing relationships and develop new ones. Everyone’s need for engagement is heightened. Reach out to colleagues and “check-in.” Find out how they are doing and feeling. You may want to offer a 15-minute phone call or virtual meet-up just to break up the day. This could be much like a “water cooler” chat or visit by the coffee machine if you will. For those people that you may not have spent much time with, reach out to them too. Collaboration is the hallmark of any successful operations department, and the skillset is more essential than ever.

Find ways to relax

New tasks and responsibilities are stressful in any work environment. A complete change to work environments and drastic changes to modes of operation can lead to even greater stress. Looking online for relaxation videos, calming apps on our phones, or just taking a walk, reading a book, or cooking may provide some relief. Whatever it is, be sure to relax and reflect each day so you are renewed for the next day. Here are a few video ideas:

The tips and practices may be applicable to many positions and people who now find themselves working from home for the first time. A seasoned educational-operations professional may already have many of the resources listed. Ensuring the most current and latest information is on hand will be essential. The tools are also a means for educational operations personnel to prepare and engage for what may be a long recovery. There is some conversation that online course offerings will continue in through the Fall: Presidents Fear Financial, and Human, Toll of Coronavirus. Regardless of whether Covid-19 is a short or long-term circumstance, we must strive to solve problems and contribute to a positive outcome in the here and now.

Sandra Fishler is the Director of Academic Affairs for HotChalk, where she leads the department in overseeing Academic Affairs operations. In her 6 years with HotChalk, Sandra has successfully consulted and collaborated with numerous university partners where she has demonstrated success in management and education operations. She is especially skilled at building a collaborative team spirit and community. In addition, Sandra has taught and advised students in K-12 school and community college settings. Sandra’s prior 16 years in successful bank management and financial center operations gives her a distinctive perspective on educational operations. She earned her master’s degree in Educational Counseling from San Jose State University.