Ryan Fordham

Zoom product manager

Years at OSU: 17, full-time 13

City of residence: Corvallis

During winter term at Oregon State University, five classes were being conducted via Zoom. Now, thanks to remote learning and working, almost all classes and a majority of work meetings are being conducted via Zoom, not to mention remote counseling and connecting with family and friends. For Ryan Fordham, video communications product manager at Oregon State, managing Zoom has changed dramatically this term. His focus has been fostering the use of Zoom and ensuring that it works smoothly.

“The more people we can get using the tool, the more return there is on the university’s investment,” Fordham said. “As a result of COVID-19 there was almost instantly no more need to promote Zoom and instead an instant demand from people on how to use the tool.”

Despite a few minor service problems early on, Fordham said everything’s gone remarkably smoothly. And most OSU users have adapted relatively quickly to the platform. Early questions were focused on how to co-host meetings, and how to use Zoom as a teaching tool. The questions have become more technical, like using breakout rooms and recording live lectures. Questions are compiled on the OSU Zoom website.

“Zoom has made it easy to take meetings that were once conducted in-person to being done virtually so that people can still do their jobs,” Fordham said. “In addition to this, I think it’s been popular because it allows people to continue “human” interaction but at the same time practice social distancing. Connecting over video adds so much more value than connecting over audio only.”

In early April, in response to some concerns about security issues and so-called Zoom bombers interfering with meetings, Zoom introduced new measures to fight abuse and interference. OSU also responded quickly to the issue.

“We reviewed our default account settings and meeting settings to ensure a secure environment. In addition to that, we worked with Office of Information Security (OIS) to create a website to highlight the proper way to host a secure meeting. We’ve seen a significant reduction in abuse and in cases where it does happen, we work with users to ensure they are familiar with how to secure their future meetings.”

Fordham, who uses Zoom himself multiple times a day for work, has a few tips on using Zoom. One is to leverage the spacebar on your computer as a temporary unmute button, which goes back to mute once you release the bar. He also suggest putting your computer as close to your wireless router as possible (or plugging into it directly) and using a headset with a built-in mic if you have one. Also close all applications you’re not currently using before you join a meeting.

Fordham has had support from OSU Academic Technologies as his work focus has shifted to Zoom.

“I’ve seen a ton of flexibility and understanding from our users, which has made this possible. In addition to that, I’ve had a ton of help from various departments around campus, Academic Technologies being a big one. So, I’d like to say “thank you” to everyone for their support and their flexibility as we go through these unprecedented times.”

~ Theresa Hogue

Have an OSU Unsung Hero suggestion? We are looking for submissions that highlight OSU employees and students who are not typically in the spotlight but are going above and beyond during this pandemic. Send your suggestions to [email protected] and our staff may contact them to conduct remote interviews that we would feature in OSU Today and elsewhere.