Video tutorials help navigate Maryland General Assembly website

Ana Hogan loves problem-solving. And as a member of the Maryland General Assembly’s Information Systems Office at the Department of Legislative Services, she’s had her hands full over the past year.

Long before anyone ever heard of the coronavirus, Hogan — no relation to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan — was hard at work on an overhaul of the Maryland General Assembly’s website.

Hogan and her team developed eight video tutorials designed to help the public do everything from track a piece of legislation to sign up to testify before a committee in Annapolis.

With the 90-day legislative session already underway, but no public access to the state house complex, Hogan said it’s more important than ever for the public to have a way to find out how to navigate the legislative process.

“It was important to make sure that witnesses could sign up from the website, that people can see the hearings go live,” Hogan said, adding that it was critical that people feel they can get real time information on the issues that matter to them.

Hogan, who narrates the instructional videos, said it was lots of fun to break down the process of navigating the website. She hopes people find it engaging.

“I like to simplify things for people, and I like to help,” she said.

Hogan said she knows that not everyone feels comfortable diving into technology to get their questions answered.

She suggests, “It would be really valuable to sit down with a cup of coffee or eat your lunch and just watch the videos.” It’s useful to just watch each one all the way through, Hogan said, adding that if someone gets stuck during the process, they can always refer back to the videos.

“You can pause them and revisit them; it’s there for everyone,” she said of the information in the videos.

Hogan wasn’t the only one concerned that the public would not know what is going on in Annapolis due to COVID-19 restrictions barring access to the state house.

Maryland state Del. Brian Crosby, a Democrat from St. Mary’s County, also worked with his own staff to generate how-to videos posted on both his YouTube channel and Facebook page.

“We should be encouraging more people to take advantage of this because more people would be involved in their government,” Crosby said. “That’s what I was trying to do with this video.”

Even without the public’s presence for the hundreds of committee hearings and floor sessions, everyone working at the state house is “very busy, but everyone is getting through it, and we are very proud” of their work in trying to make government accessible, Hogan said.

Along with enjoying helping people, Hogan likes to spread a positive outlook, even as the pace of lawmaking becomes frenetic in a 90-day window.

“I do believe if people just take a breath” she suggested, everyone will be able to survive the most stressful of moments. Online and offline.

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