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Takeaways from 2020 Conferences: A New Normal

Many staff members represented DELTA at conferences in 2020, whether presenting or attending. COVID-19 threw a wrench into this year’s conference plans, but virtual conference meetings and eager faculty members across the UNC System made them a success. Several of these staff members have shared their experiences and takeaways from some remarkable virtual conferences.

National College Testing Association Annual Conference

Last summer, DELTA’s testing team attended the 2020 National College Testing Association (NCTA) annual conference. The virtual conference was held Aug. 25-28 and focused on creating safe, honorable testing environments on college campuses. Specifically, the conference provided meaningful advice about building relationships with customers and being accommodating for students, especially during a pandemic year.

“The presentation on ‘Building Positive Testing Relationships with our Customers’ was the one that stood out to me the most because I gained the most feedback and possible solutions for our team to try and utilize,” said Testing Associate Kaitlyn Tarley. “The main takeaways for me were the mentioned ways to build positive relationships with our students and fellow team members.”

Testing Associate Morgan Coston found a presentation on academic integrity to be particularly memorable.

One of the most important pieces of advice Coston gained from this presentation was to “know that technology is only getting better, so be aware of anything students take to the testing rooms [such as] jewelry, glasses, or personal pencils. Some serve as a way for students to violate academic integrity policies. Therefore, we have to keep a close eye on the students more now.”

2020 BICSI Fall Conference & Exhibition

Associate Director of Video Communication Services Tony Pearson presented virtually for BISCI’s 2020 Fall Conference & Exhibition, which was held Sept. 27-Oct. 1.

According to Pearson, “The fall conference provided the very best information and communications technology (ICT) education and innovation that the industry has to offer, including an intuitive virtual experience to attendees and exhibitors.”

Pearson and Classroom Services Manager Shawn Colvin shared their advice and knowledge of video communication in their presentation, Deploying SMPTE ST 2110 in a Distributed Campus System, describing the advancements NC State has made regarding video communication and practices.

“The goal of the presentation was to engage and start conversations with industry peers on the transition to video over IP technologies on college campuses.”


A few of DELTA’s staff members gave presentations at UNC CAUSE 2020, held Oct. 6-22. Through their presentations, DELTA staff shared best practices regarding information technology, instructional design and pedagogy with other UNC System faculty.

Donna Petherbridge and Jessica White presenting “Competency Based Education with the End in Mind” at UNC CAUSE 2020.

Associate Vice Provost for Academic Technology Innovation Donna Petherbridge made two presentations at the conference, including “Leadership in a Crisis” and “Competency Based Education with the End in Mind.” Her goal for these presentations was “sharing with the community best practices and lessons learned from our experiences.” The presentations specifically shared helpful information regarding instructional design and pedagogical decisions to facilitate successful education, especially during COVID-19.

When asked which presentation stood out to her, Instructional Designer Jakia Salam said, “‘Leadership in Crisis: Lessons in Progress’ by Donna Petherbridge, Debbie Carraway and Mardecia Bell from our NC State! The NC State Women In Technology (WIT) leadership team shared with us what they are learning as they have navigated the past few months of the COVID-19 crisis, and what they plan on keeping (and throwing away) going forward. It was a very timely presentation.”

The NC State Women in Technology team presenting virtually at UNC CAUSE 2020.

Salam helped make the presentation “Data vs. the Hunch: Letting Data Lead Innovation in Course Design” to give advice and help solve problems regarding instructional design.

“In this session, we demonstrated how feedback from students, faculty colleagues and other data helped confirm some assumptions about redesigning an environmental engineering course, but also opened up new windows to innovation and viewing common problems like engagement and faculty time constraints from different angles,” Salam said. “We also provide sample tools and strategies that anyone can use to help them gain practical, actionable insights.”

Associate Director of Instructional Technology Training Bethany Smith shared advice on making an online conference successful both during planning and during the event, through her presentation “Leading Online Conferences and Events: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.”

“Participants learned from our experiences delivering online conferences, including how to set up sessions and a website for success as well as facilitating the sessions themselves,” said Smith.


Zoomtopia, held Oct. 14-15, was attended virtually by several DELTA staff members. Pearson, an attendee at this year’s Zoomtopia conference, says the conference allowed attendees to gain insight into recent updates and plans for future advances in technology.

“Zoom’s annual user conference provides an update on Zoom’s vision of the future, latest product announcements and connects attendees with like-minded peers from across the globe,” said Pearson. “Opportunities were available to discover solutions from their expansive partner ecosystem, enhancing your skills with specialized learning tracks and be inspired by world-renowned speakers.”

Pearson continued to give and receive advice even after the conference was over.

“I held additional meetings after the conference and received advice from several solution architects attending Zoomtopia.”

Associate Director of Data, Integrations and Custom Applications Jonathan Champ was an attendee of Zoomtopia this year, and he found the conference to be particularly informative.

“Zoom has a lot of very different customers now, who are all vying for attention. It’s going to be difficult to keep up with all of the features and changes they’re deploying to the platform.”

EDUCAUSE Annual Conference

EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, held virtually Oct. 27-29, aimed to inform employees in higher education of new ways of thinking about information technology. This conference, attended by some of our own DELTA team members, encouraged attendees to think creatively about decision making in a pandemic year.

Petherbridge gave two presentations along with her colleagues, including “A Women In Tech Starter Kit: Starting Out Hip & Keeping Things Hopping” and “Courage and Commitment: Starting a Diversity and Inclusion Program.” These presentations allowed Petherbridge to share DELTA’s experience with technology and encourage others to harness the efforts of a diverse group of individuals in order to find success.

Petherbridge and Senior Instructional Designer Cathi Dunnagan admired George Takei for his encouraging, thoughtful speeches and contributions to the conference.

“For me, the highlight of EDUCAUSE 2020 was listening to George Takei talk about his life experiences, sharing his story and encouraging us to be resilient,” Dunnagan said.

“George Takei is a remarkable human being. I could have listened to him all day,” Petherbridge said.

Petherbridge’s experiences with UNC CAUSE and EDUCAUSE this year have shown her that conference formats will be different and flexible in the future, even after the pandemic.

“A major takeaway for me is that post-pandemic, I expect many conferences to shift to a blended format, with a number of online options. Both conferences I attended demonstrated that online options can be well-managed and well-attended,” Petherbridge said.

ILTC Lilly Online Conference 2020

ILTC Lilly Online Conference 2020 was held Nov. 30-Dec. 4. This conference helped educators improve their teaching strategies, learn about best practices in in-person and hybrid classes, and create a plan to redesign their courses.

Cathi Dunnagan’s poster presentation for ILTC Lilly Online Conference 2020.

Dunnagan made a poster gallery presentation at the conference to contribute to the conference’s goals to improve course content and learning outcomes. The poster presentation shared NC State’s advancements in virtual reality labs for organic chemistry classes

“Our goal was to share our NC State Virtual Reality Organic Chemistry Labs with the 1,700 faculty attending this conference and offer these as free online resources to teach organic chemistry to their students.”


Through all of these presentations, DELTA staff were able to share best practices in teaching and learning with technology as well as learn from others in the higher education world.