Sitting down with the man who led the effort to transition YSU into online-only classes

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Chief Information Officer Jim Yukech said the two-week project should have taken three to six months

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – He was faced with the challenge of getting all 2,700 of Youngstown State University’s spring semester classes online in just 13 days.

Earlier this evening, we talked with YSU Chief Information Officer Jim Yukech, the man who led and successfully completed the project.

“That March 10, 2020, is the day that will live in infamy for us.”

That was when YSU President Jim Tressel told Yukech that he wanted every spring semester class online by March 23.

“I think he could tell when he looked over at me that I got a little pale because I thought, ‘Boy, this is going to be a Herculean effort to do in 13 days,'” Yukech said.

Two days later, he put in a request for the money — an amount that normally would have meant a lengthy process.

“I actually called our CFO and I said, ‘Neil… we have to order a half a million dollars of hardware today,” Yukech said.

Yukech and his staff of 50 people bought 400 laptops, 100 WiFi hotspots, along with web cameras, microphones and headsets. Then, they had to train much of the 400 faculty on how to use it.

“We have faculty members that were here 20-30 years that had never done an online class. So they’ve only done their class in person,” he said.

Yukech said that now, 41 days after his order from President Tressel, everything is running smoothly. For that, he credits the faculty.

“What just really amazes me about our faculty is the way they just adapted. If something wasn’t working for them, they’re like, ‘What other tool do you have? What could I do for this?’ And we would get someone to work with them and we’d figure it out,” Yukech said.

We asked Yukech if this was the toughest thing he’ll ever do — technically — in his career.

“I spent 26 years in health care and we had some very challenging projects. But I will say in this type of time frame, I hope I never see it again,” he laughed.

Yukech said one of the hardest parts of the transition was figuring out how to get certain computer labs online, like in the schools of engineering, business and art. Some of the high-end applications don’t lend themselves to online learning.

He said it was a three to six month project that they did in just two weeks.

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