Secrets of Success: Be flexible and continue learning

Jeff Moody, CRI, is president and owner of the College of Court Reporting as well as of ev360, LLC. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Indiana University, Bloomington, and has been in the court reporting field since 1989. In addition to running these companies, he serves on the ACICS Intermediate Review Committee for school accreditations and has been very involved in NCRA. In fact, he was awarded NCRA’s Council on Approved Student Education Award of Excellence in 2006. Moody, who calls Valparaiso, Ind., home, sat down with the JCR as a contributor to the Secrets of Success series.

How would you describe your current role?

First, I approach each day as an oppor­tunity to help court reporting students succeed in their court reporting pro­gram and try not to look at it as a job but rather as a privilege. Every day at the College of Court Reporting, our staff has a unique opportunity to help peo­ple change their lives, and that is how we approach what we do.

Specifically, I wear many hats at CCR. We have more than 35 adjunct faculty, 11 full-time administrative staff, and four part-time administrative staff. I oversee the day-to-day operations of running the college, think of ways to improve court reporting education, and develop new technologies to better as­sist our staff and students in school. We take great pride in working together as a team and challenging ourselves and students to be better tomorrow than we were today.

Your mother started the College of Court Reporting. Did that influence your decision to be part of the profession? If so, in what ways? Did she encour­age you, or did you know from a young age that you wanted to be part of the profession?

When I graduated from Indiana Univer­sity in 1987, I began working as a juvenile probation officer in Northwest Indiana. In 1989, my mom, Kay Moody, received her national accreditation and needed to hire someone to administer her financial aid programs. It was good timing for me to start working for CCR as my interests were always with technology. When I was hired, my mom’s policy for new teachers was to take the machine shorthand theory classes. So I learned the Stenograph Computer Compatible Theory and after that fell in love with machine shorthand. I come from a family of educators, so in addition to my love of machine shorthand and learning new technologies, it seemed to be a natural fit to develop all of the college’s technolo­gies, including our computer-aided tran­scription courses. Kay’s philosophy of al­ways doing what is in the best interests of students has stayed with me throughout the years and continues today as the focus of my leadership in running the college.

I would have never dreamed that learning machine shorthand theory would have allowed me to take our college in the direction of online learning that it has. With the development of ev360, I now have an opportunity to help so many other students and schools improve their delivery of court reporting education. I remember Kay always talking about how court reporting education used to be the best when she worked together with other schools and school owners. It was a time when educators and school owners really shared with each other how to improve their programs and develop their curricu­la to achieve better outcomes for their stu­dents. There was a mutual understanding, respect, and camaraderie among these school owners. They worked together and shared ideas, resources, and philosophies for the betterment of the profession. My desire is to get back to that time, which is why we developed ev360 Professional and the unique plans that are available to schools. It is our way of sharing a little bit of what we do at CCR with the education community. This is very exciting for me personally. We are very excited about our future and the future of court reporting education.

What have been the challenges and rewards of running a business?

The biggest challenges for me and our team at CCR is to constantly innovate and provide the highest quality learn­ing environment for our faculty and students. I frequently take long drives in my car late at night and just think about what we can do to improve our programs for our students. I think over the past two years I drove more than 50,000 miles thinking about ev360 and what it can do for our program and students.

The other big challenge is the mas­sive amount of federal regulation we have to deal with as an accredited college. It has been overwhelming these past few years. On the other side of the regulation coin, it is extremely rewarding to know that we meet and exceed the regulators’ expectations and continue each day to provide the highest quality program for our students.

A few years ago, you developed and implemented ev360, a learning and technologies system to help students and faculty. How would that help a student be successful while in school?

College of Court Reporting was one of the first accredited court reporting col­leges to offer its program online. We real­ized that our approach to teaching court reporting was limited. We identified four key elements within the current system and decided that we needed to basically start over and develop our own delivery mechanism and content if we were go­ing to be able to continue to improve our program. Prior to developing ev360, we were completely lacking in the ability to interact with students regarding feed­ back on tests and time management. We were not able to efficiently grade tests in a manner so that students were able to learn from the process of transcribing. So we found a developer who was able to turn ideas into realities and thus we had the beginning of the ev360 Technologies.

The first ev360 technology we devel­oped was ev360 Skill Development. This is a unique software program where the student becomes the teacher. Students can choose from a library of classes and apply structured lesson plans to each class to create custom structured 50-minute audio or text skill development classes. The application has a custom-developed technology where students can self-eval­uate their transcriptions and get imme­diate graded results for dictations that range from one to five minutes.

The second ev360 technology we de­veloped was ev360 SAP (Success as you Progress) Evaluations. For many years, I have wondered why court reporting programs tested students at five-minute increments. I always felt that this was an unnecessary requirement that set students up to fail every step of the way through school. A person who can pass five minutes at 60 wpm cannot immediately expect to start passing five minutes at 80 wpm, but this is what we schools do. A skill is developed gradually, and to expect students to immediately start testing at the next speed level is an expectation of failure. Students cannot endure the quantity of failure through­out their time in school and expect to remain motivated. No athlete trains this way, so why should a court reporting program train its students this way? So when we developed ev360 SAP Evalua­tions (Success As you Progress), we com­pletely changed our approach to testing. Our software was designed to automate the delivery of tests in a one-minute ap­proach. Our students must pass a one-minute test at 91 percent before they can attempt a two-minute test. They must pass a two-minute test at 92 percent before they can attempt a three-minute test, and so on. Once they progress to and pass the five-minute test at 95 per­cent, they move to the next speed level. Since the program’s implementation, we have seen our test pass rate go from less than 10 percent to exceeding 50 percent. I am not sure what this means, but we are getting tremendous results from our students who are following the SAP ap­proach to testing.

Lastly, the ev360 Feed­back technology allows our faculty members to interact with their students when grading tests. The system was developed to replicate the old onsite approach where we would meet with a student to discuss his or her graded test. We can now do this in an online format with ev360 Communicate. It has allowed our teachers to get back to the basics of teaching instead of doing busy work and not interacting with their students.

What else can students do to prepare for a successful career in court report­ing?

Students today face many challenges to get through court reporting school. I don’t think that is much different than years prior in that all students have had challenges. We live in a time where people have a greater desire for instant gratification. Court reporting has always been and will always be about develop­ing a skill. Like any skill, the develop­ment process is uniquely different from one person to the next. Every student is different; students have a different edu­cational background, they have different work ethics, they have different attitudes, they have different desires, they have dif­ferent attention spans — they are all just different.

It is also unfortunate that students are getting so much information today from social media. Many times, there is conflicting information that confuses students from staying focused on what they are being told in the classroom. Not that any one side is right or wrong, it is just too much information can po­tentially be confusing. Students need to have great trust in what their teachers are trying to get them to do and accomplish. Block out all of the external noise, stay focused on what they are being asked to accomplish, keep a healthy and positive lifestyle and attitude, and remove them­selves from others who are negative and destructive to the journey. Be willing to accept that there is so much to learn and have patience in the process. Preparation is a lifelong journey, and it never ends.

I see that you wear many hats. What would you recommend that newly graduated students focus on first? Or is being able to wear many hats a key to success?

I am not sure if being able to wear many hats is necessarily a recommendation, but to have an understanding going into this profession that one will need to wear many hats will definitely help. Students need to understand that the learning journey never ends. Everything cannot be taught in the classroom or even dur­ing the internship experience. A flexible approach, an open attitude, and a desire to continue learning will take a new re­porter a long way after school.

How has the court reporting business changed over the past years?

I cannot speak for the actual court re­porting business, but the court reporting school business has become much more competitive now that we teach online globally. This has been an interesting and fun challenge at CCR, and we are excited about our future.

How has the way court report­ing schools prepare their students changed over the past years?

I feel that the overall quality of court re­porting education has changed consider­ably. The overall cost of education has in­creased as a result of federal regulations, which translates into schools having few­er dollars to put into more instructional faculty and resources. I see some tech­nologies serving as instructional replace­ments, which I personally feel is a detri­ment to the overall quality of program delivery. Greater demands have been placed on schools to have students more realtime ready without having the ap­propriate understanding of how this has negatively impacted program lengths. What used to be considered an advanced skill toward the end of one’s schooling or after working in the field is now the expectation of the student throughout their entire program. This has negatively impacted program completion rates, in­creased dropout rates, and as result, in­creased the number of schools that no longer offer court reporting programs.

What type of skill set is needed to be successful as a student? As a court reporter?

Students who graduate from a court reporting program must have the ba­sic skills to write at exit speeds of 225 Q&A, 200 Jury, and 180 Literary with a minimum of 95 percent accuracy. They must also be prepared to write multi voice dictation. Students must absolutely have excellent grammar, punctuation, and English skills to be proficient in the profession. Students must have strong morals and ethics as one who represents the legal profession as the guardian of the record. Lastly, they must have a good work ethic and an understanding of pro­fessionalism as it relates to what others perceive professionalism to be, not what they perceive professionalism and work ethic to be.

What role does technology play in be­ing successful as a court reporter, and how does technology affect the court reporting business?

Technology plays a critical role in the fu­ture of the court reporting profession. I am a firm believer in technology, staying current on technology, and the use of the most advanced technologies. I am also a firm believer in the human element and the use of technology. We must embrace all new technologies with the under­standing that the court reporter is at the center of that technology.

What’s the best advice you could give a student who is about to enter the field?

Find a lifelong mentor, someone you will always turn to for advice. My mother has been, and will always be, my lifelong mentor as it relates to court reporting education and running a court reporting program.

Where do you see the court report­ing profession going in the future? And what do reporters need to do to prepare for that?

The future …. I wish I had a crystal ball for this wonderful profession. I know we will be innovating and striving to prepare students to enter the profession, whatev­er it becomes, the very best we can. My advice is to embrace change and always look forward to tomorrow.