As William & Mary prepared for a semester with brand-new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, W&M Information Technology helped the effort by creating a publicly accessible COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard showcases the testing results of the William & Mary community, and allows for comparison with the region’s testing results from the Virginia Department of Health. The goal of the dashboard is to present COVID testing data from the W&M community in as up-to-date fashion as possible. While it may look simple on the website, a lot of work went into making the dashboard come to life.
IT Technology Architect Scott Stewart and Applications Administrator Louis Hubert took the lead in developing the COVID-19 dashboard, in coordination with Chief Technology Officer Corinne Picataggi. Executive leadership at the university approached IT to create a public facing dashboard in order to share the most current updates on COVID-19 with the community. IT coordinated with University Web & Design, the University Communications Team, as well as the COVID Response Team (CRT) to design and develop the dashboard. Stewart said that IT took the lead on this project because “W&M IT is in a position to see where the data needs to go beyond just making the dashboard.”
Due to a quick turnaround time, the team started the project by presupposing their existing data inputs. Hubert created the outward public facing aspect of the dashboard so that it could be updated regularly with new testing data coming from W&M’s testing providers. The dashboard is updated daily during the week to reflect new information from W&M's testing providers, as well as self-reported cases from the community, which comes from W&M's case management system.
The website has been an important part of the university's COVID response and to the community, evidenced by its over 22,000 page visits in the 2 weeks after its publication. Stewart described it as an exciting opportunity to create something meaningful for William & Mary.
Currently, it’s on its fourth phase, and they plan to continue improvements to meet the needs of the community. One addition that was made recently to the dashboard is including testing data from the general Williamsburg and Newport News community, obtained from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). Presenting the data both from W&M testing specifically and VDH testing allows for easy comparison of W&M with the greater community. Also, the team recently added a feature that allows the campus community to view how many current active cases are on campus.
In Stewart’s words, “The key [to a successful dashboard] was all the people involved in the project behind the scenes. They were instrumental in getting the dashboard finished on time, and being able to have a public product that could adjust to a changing plan.”
In early October, Picataggi worked with the Tech and Process subcommittee of the CRT to create an advisory committee made up of parents, students and faculty members. Members of the committee had shown interest in the dashboard, and are now assisting IT and the CRT by giving feedback on it. Working with the advisory committee allows for IT to take student and community perspectives into account as they continue to improve the dashboard experience.
Creating and maintaining the dashboard has been an important part of the university’s response to the pandemic. IT has been able to help keep the campus community aware of the most current information related to how the university community is handling the pandemic. IT is planning on continuing to improve the dashboard to help the campus community maintain their safety and be able to remain on campus for in-person instruction. Ultimately, in Picataggi's words, the dashboard ensures that "the community knows everything we know (university administration) related to COVID-19 on campus." It keeps us all on the same page.