Joe Way, Continually Showing The Way In Higher-Ed AV, Is CTI's New Hero
ST. LOUIS, March 16, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- It was Friday the 13th, March 2020. The President of the United States declared a national emergency due to the spreading coronavirus, and the University of Southern California (USC) sent its students home. As the school's Director of Learning Environments, Joe Way was in charge of educational technology, and his phone was buzzing.
It was the provost calling.
"How are we going to do our classes?" he asked. "How are we going to solve this?"
When Way took the job at USC just seven months earlier, he had been encouraged to think BIG. That broadmindedness was about to pay off.
"USC billed itself as a global institution, but it really didn't have the technologies to live up to that," Way says. "But I had a vision: What if a faculty member didn't have to go on sabbatical to do research in Africa? What if he could live there, call into class, and teach from the field? Or what if Ron Howard could call into one of our film classes and guest lecture?"
The technology for remote learning already existed – Zoom, cloud services, server technologies, etc. – but few institutions of any kind were utilizing it. In fact, although it's hard to believe now, Way estimates it represented just two to three percent of the AV industry in late 2019.
Way convinced the university to make an unprecedented investment in virtual learning and to move fast. All of which enabled him to calmly tell the provost, in no uncertain terms, that, "We already have the solution. The equipment is sitting in a stoage closet. We just need to install it."
Conference Technologies, Inc.® (CTI), a leading custom audio-visual systems integration solutions specialist, announced today that it is recognizing Way as part of a "Heroes" campaign that honors outstanding people in the AV industry.
With an empty campus in the early days of the pandemic, Way, a USC alum, and his team had the perfect opportunity to install all that new equipment and bring USC into a new learning age. By the fall semester more than 600 spaces had been upgraded. Since then, Way proudly says, "Our design has been picked up by hundreds of campuses. It's become the standard for pretty much every university in the country."
Way earned a degree in philosophy from USC 1995. He learned AV production while working part-time for the recording arts department staging various campus events. Since job opportunities for philosophy majors were limited, he ended up in the entertainment industry and built a career in event management, eventually owning a couple of production companies and nightclubs.
In 2008, Way hit a rough patch. The recession and a divorce left him as a struggling single dad who was working nights and weekends. But in another stroke of serendipity, the church he attended (Compass Bible in Aliso Viejo, CA) needed a technical director. He excelled, and after three years there, he joined nearby Saddleback Church in a similar role.
Saddleback is a mega-church, the largest in California and one of the biggest in the U.S. "We had a 40-person team running the service – eight camera shots, a hundred-some microphone channels, front and back production rooms, post editing…. It was equivalent to any TV show," recalls Way. "It was also one of the first services to be streamed across the internet. Hundreds of thousands of people watched."
While working at Saddleback, Way also served as the director of multimedia services for California Baptist University. This was his foot in the door of higher-ed AV. USC noticed him as his AV reputation grew. He was the AV Professional of the Year in 2019, started Higher-Ed AV (a media company) in 2018, and co-founded the Higher Education Technology Managers Alliance (HETMA) in 2019, which has since grown to more than a thousand members.
After being recruited by USC to captain its digital transformation, Way inherited an inefficient, decentralized department that wasn't very popular or respected on campus. "I just started listening to people," he explains. "I've always regarded this as a service industry and been big on user-centered design. So I had a lot of conversations and drank a lot of coffee."
The university named Way's department Service Team of the Year for 2020. USC won four global awards for its classroom technology. And Way has even addressed the United Nations and the U.S. Department of Education about the future of education.
And what is that future exactly? "I think it's the same evolution we're seeing in society," he explains, "a move to services, to software-based technologies and to absorbing content from anywhere. Higher ed is going to have to adapt to that. We will no longer see a room full of 50 students with a faculty member standing at the front talking. Those days are gone."
Overall, Way considers himself blessed to have found this niche, and he encourages others in the AV industry to consider higher ed. "In higher ed it's not just about installing equipment," he says. "You get to see why you did it – for the students. And that to me is the biggest reward … Plus, you can't beat the benefits."
About Conference Technologies Inc.
Conference Technologies, Inc.® (CTI) (www.conferencetech.com) is a leading custom audio-visual systems integration solutions specialist. The St. Louis-based company, founded in 1988, has more than 20 offices across the country and offers a wide variety of services to customers in various industries around the world.
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SOURCE Conference Technologies, Inc.® (CTI)