COVID-19 Sparks Massive Surge of Zoom Users in the California Community College System

COVID-19 Sparks Massive Surge of Zoom Users in the California Community College System

A year ago, TechConnect was ramping up its rollout of the videoconferencing platform Zoom to California’s community colleges when the pandemic hit—skyrocketing the number of classes and meetings from 15,000 in February 2020 to 237,000 one month later. By April, that number had more than doubled to 500,000.

“Before COVID-19, the majority of Zoom users were early adopters,” said Heather Schmidt, Manager of Support Services for CCC TechConnect. “The pandemic forced everyone to go online—from instructors and staff to students. The demand was incredible and completely unanticipated. We had to ramp up overnight to meet the teaching and business needs of our community colleges, as well as ensure that the educational needs of students were being met.”

One of the biggest challenges was the provisioning of new accounts. The drastic increase in the number of users required TechConnect to work with Zoom to obtain new licensed accounts for faculty and staff. Licensed users have the capability of setting up meetings for 300 attendees with unlimited time limitations, unlike the free accounts that are reserved for students, which offer a maximum of 40 minutes for more than two attendees.

Greater use of the platform also meant that there was a larger number of support requests. In February 2020, the TechConnect staff fielded 1100 support requests. That number surged to nearly 11,000 in March. The demand continued in the ensuing months.

To meet the dramatic increase in demand for help, TechConnect’s Support Services implemented a training program for users consisting of recorded trainings available in its online knowledge base, which the staff keeps current with the latest information, frequently asked questions, best practices and videos for users to access at their convenience.

"We had many instructors who came to us not knowing how to use Zoom at all,” added Schmidt. “The platform is practically a household name now, but a year ago, there were many instructors who had never heard of the videoconferencing software.”

For added assistance, Support Services also developed a schedule for live TechConnect Zoom and TechConnect Cloud trainings Monday through Friday. They also created webinars to get the word out to the entire California Community College system on how to use Zoom. Schmidt says that the boom forced them to think of ways to get as much accurate and helpful information as possible to the largest number of users.

TechConnect also made sure that faculty and staff at all community colleges had different ways of accessing help. The Support Services staff recognized that some people need live trainings, because they learn better from real-time interaction as opposed to having answers provided via email.

“Nearly a year later, we are starting to see new types of questions emerge from users,” Schmidt said. “Some of the most common inquiries have to do with more advanced capabilities such as breakout rooms and polling, which are becoming the platform’s most popular features.”

TechConnect wasn’t the only one that had to adjust to the tsunami of new users. Zoom quickly learned that it needed to add more robust security features to create a more secure learning environment that keeps unwanted attendees from joining.

In just over a year, TechConnect has counted 8 million zoom meetings—mostly from classes.

Schmidt adds that the system has also seen an increase in Zoom use from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and college staff to conduct business. 

TechConnect’s digital solutions, training, and support services are free to all 116 community colleges and are made possible with grant funding from the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. For more information on TechConnect, visit https://www.ccctechconnect.org.