On March 16, 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania, the decision to close campus was the first step into the journey of the unknown. Immaculata University shifted to a new model of education, and in true IU fashion, faculty, staff and students quickly and enthusiastically embraced a new virtual reality. No corner of the university was untouched—it was a true 100% all-in approach.
With students scheduled to visit campus a mere two weeks away for Accepted Students Day, one of the largest admissions events of the year, the admissions teams quickly adopted a new best friend—Zoom. Although the in-person thrill of visiting a college campus is hard to replicate, staff and faculty spent countless hours transitioning presentations to video, showcasing the university’s finest assets. As time marched on, numerous open houses and information sessions were crafted into engaging opportunities as well.
While some classes could more easily transition to an online format, others like lab sciences required a much different approach. Immaculata invested in Labster lab simulations, which provided the best alternative to a hands-on lab experience. Even as students returned to the classroom, the technology still serves as a useful learning tool. Additionally, all teaching faculty trained extensively in online instruction and effectively using Moodle learning management system for their courses.
Always committed to the mental health of our students and in the midst of so much change, counseling services staff provided support through Theralink, a HIPAA-compliant video platform. Other departments supplemented mental health efforts by hosting online support groups for students to discuss the many challenges of a “new normal.”
For seniors readying to enter the job market, the last final push of interview prep and résumé perfecting was not lost. The Career Center staff hosted numerous workshops on a weekly basis to provide as much support as possible to the newest group of IU leaders as they headed out into the working world.
During the summer as the incoming class was gearing up for their pinnacle transition to college life, New Student Orientation leaders and staff jumped into virtual mode to ensure that every new student felt prepared and excited to join the IU team. They reproduced the immersion into college experience through the magic of Instagram Live and Discord, a digital platform for creating communities through messaging and collaboration.
Athletics & Esports
Spring sports were cut short and the fall season never got off the mark, but coaches and athletics staff created opportunities to keep the team spirit alive. Hosting online bonding sessions and fitness challenges allowed student-athletes to keep their connections strong and encouraged them to maintain the competitive edge. Additionally, the inaugural year of Esports was a natural fit for the virtual switch!