Q&A: Ana Thompson, digital learning

Ana Thompson
Ana Thompson. Courtesy photo.

How has work in Digital Learning & Engagement changed since remote operations began at UW Bothell? Ana Thompson, learning and access designer, answers a few questions from Maria Lamarca Anderson, director of communications.

Q. What would you normally be doing now and where?

A. Right now, I would be either working from home or in my office, depending on the day. I was working from home one or two days per week before the pandemic. If I was on campus, I would be conversing with my colleagues about projects, current issues, new ideas and best ways to support faculty. I would be helping faculty or staff who would stop by the office. I would be testing existing technology tools to find better ways to engage students in the classroom, helping troubleshoot issues with Poll Everywhere and providing training and support in creating accessible content. Instructional Designer Todd Conaway and I would also be planning the eLearning Symposium event for July or August.

A couple of years ago, our department started an event called Canvas, Coffee & Cookies the first week of each quarter. This week, our team would be taking turns to bring in baked goods, good coffee, tea and the accompanying wares. We would make sure there is always someone at the office, and Todd would make his “Todding-about” visits to faculty offices with his treat to-go box and coffee tumbler.

I would also be attending meetings at the Seattle campus.

Q. What are you trying to work on today?

A. We have scheduled phone hours that Salem Levesque, digital learning specialist, covers weekday mornings, while Todd and I cover the Zoom drop-in support hours Monday through Thursday afternoons. I check and complete ticket requests, update content and handouts to prepare for meetings with faculty, and work on projects and upcoming courses that our team will be teaching.

As part of the accessibility work I do on campus, I read many of the accessibility articles and news on my listservs and respond to questions posted to the accessibility community. This includes accessibility assessments of Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates that vendors submit as part of the UW’s procurement process. In addition, I am collaborating with Access Technology Services at the Seattle campus in reviewing a tool, DocMD, that the University hopes to adopt to remediate documents posted on our websites.

As the current chair for the Northwest eLearning Community, a regional higher-ed organization, I am also working on our board meeting agenda for this Friday, preparing to co-host a virtual conference this spring with two other organizations and updating the monthly newsletter.

Q. What adjustments have you made to fulfill your work responsibilities?

A. I was working from home some days each week before the pandemic, but to be able to get my work done well and stay organized I needed to fully set up my home office. I invested in a work desk and other office equipment, better internet connectivity, a power backup system and some agreed-upon behaviors with my husband to separate work and home stuff.

Our team has shifted to finding better ways to support faculty and be proactive. Many informal meetings and discussions that used to happen in the course of a day when we were at the office are now scheduled times via Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Slack is now our interface for all the informal chats and quick meetings.

Q. What are you doing to care for yourself or for others?

A. I schedule time to unplug and walk away from my desk a couple of times a day as well as workout routines to stay active and healthy. Our cats and doggie love that I am at home all day.

One of the things I enjoy is going to the kitchen to eat breakfast or lunch and take a few minutes to watch birds and squirrels play. We installed feeders in our backyard and use the Merlin Bird ID app from Cornell University to identify species and keep a journal of our sightings.

I am so thankful to be part of the Behavioral Health Learning Community. Our meetings and readings have helped me be more aware of my own mental health, recognize issues and be more compassionate toward others. Our group will be organizing the Mental Health Day event for this spring.

Q. Do you have a change of perspective to share?

A. Apart from the changes in working remotely, the way our team worked changed, and we were assigned a new supervisor. I am very thankful for all the conversations we have had (and continue to have) as we adapt to work together as a new team and how we are there for each other.

Q. What other thoughts or feelings do you want to share?

A. I am very optimistic about the future, despite the many negative events we have experienced. I am thankful each day for my family, home, furry kids, health, friends and being part of the UW Bothell community. I know what I do makes a difference and always hope I can brighten someone’s day.

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