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Zoom for GIS Consultations: What I Have Learned During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Image of a virtual GIS Consultation in action conducted through Zoom.

By Justin Sorensen


The Coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives in so many ways. In the beginning, it seemed as though our world had turned upside-down, leaving us searching for new ways of conducting business and living our daily lives while accommodating the impacts that social distancing and remote working environments impose. Over time, many have incorporated new technologies, processes, and methods into their workflow, offering alternative (and often more productive) methods for conducting business and assisting others. As I look back on the evolving services offered to Library patrons by GIS Services, I feel in many ways that my department was prepared for the pandemic outbreak, even though I had no idea what was about to come.

Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, I had begun examining new methods for conducting GIS project consultations with Library patrons who were unable to meet with me in-person at the Marriott Library. Testing various technologies that were currently being offered, I selected Zoom for its accessibility and interactive capabilities for collaborating and assisting with projects in development. Employing Zoom into my GIS workflow has enabled me to not only stay connected with patrons I am working with, but also ensures that projects in development (either prior to or during the pandemic) continue progressing forward towards completion.

Working remotely with Zoom, I am able to have the next best thing to an in-office consultation experience with Library patrons I am assisting. Some of the ways I have found Zoom beneficial to these consultations include:

  • Video Conferencing – during virtual consultations, I have the ability to see, interact, and discuss each individuals project with them, much as I would in an in-person consultation.
  • Secure Meeting Environments – in a world where privacy and security are major concerns, I have the ability to set-up private meeting rooms with secure passwords that are easily accessible to patrons at the time of their virtual appointment.
  • File Sharing – during virtual consultations, I have the ability to share documents, GIS files, and other project related datasets, enabling me to conduct all aspects of an in-person consultation within a single program.
  • Remote Control Desktop – during consultations (both in-person and virtual), I prefer to have patrons “take the wheel”, allowing them to interactively learn the GIS processes we are discussing related to their project. Through the remote control desktop feature of Zoom, I am able to continue offering this aspect of the consultation experience to each patron I work with.

Overall, Zoom has been a major game changer for the consultation experience offered through GIS Services, allowing me to continue assisting individuals throughout the University of Utah with projects and research they are developing.

To learn more about the geospatial services offered by GIS Services or to schedule a virtual consultation appointment, please visit the GIS Services website.

Happy Mapping!

Justin Sorensen | GIS Specialist                                                                                                                                                                        Creativity & Innovation Services / GIS Services
justin.sorensen@utah.edu

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