Pivoting to Virtual—Embracing Creativity & Innovation

Forced to act due to the global pandemic, Endicott College fully embraced a move to online learning, virtual events, and digital outreach efforts.

Laptop and coffee mug overlooking the water on Endicott College campus Photo by Terry Slater
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Being no stranger to creativity and innovation, Endicott College delved into the challenges set forth by the spread of COVID-19—embracing a commitment to actively improving its approach to and delivery of virtual events, courses, and outreach efforts. While this pandemic has impacted every facet of the College, the adaptability and resilience of faculty, staff, and students have been essential in successfully navigating all associated challenges.

Just a few weeks into the crisis, the ninth Annual Parent Autism Conference was held on April 18, hosted by Endicott’s Institute for Applied Behavioral Science. Although the conference is usually held on campus in Beverly, Mass., with a limit of 250 guests, this year’s conference went virtual—and global. Eleven workshops, led by applied behavior analysis (ABA) doctoral students, and a keynote speech delivered by Dr. Peter Gerhardt, involved an astounding 850 participants, representing 20 countries and 36 American states.

With Commencement needing to be postponed due to Massachusetts restrictions on large gatherings, several staff and faculty members at Endicott swiftly developed virtual celebrations. Congratulatory emails and videos from President Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D., and faculty members, downloadable social media graphics for students (#GullGrad2020 Social Swag), College-driven communication campaigns, a Class of 2020 highlight video, and downloadable degrees were created. Not all Class of 2020 celebrations were virtual—surprise gift packages were mailed to students filled with fun items like a Gull coloring page and pencils, and an Endicott picture frame.

Other major spring and summer events like Accepted Students Day and Orientation moved to virtual experiences, allowing incoming and prospective students to hear from academic deans, learn about the array of services provided by Endicott, and meet orientation leaders and current Gulls.

No efforts were as great as those made by faculty and campus technology staff who successfully and quickly transitioned to online learning over an extended spring break. This pivot involved strategic and tactical work from faculty and staff, but also an impressive amount of self-discipline and flexibility from undergraduate students. Many professors embraced their creative side—to make online learning fun and engaging. For example, nursing faculty developed interactive simulation videos, to help replace the in-person clinicals that were suddenly no longer available to students. Dean of the School of Nursing Nancy Meedzan says, “Faculty took starring roles in these virtual clinical experiences in hopes of making connections with our students while they were studying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was our hope that our students would see us in the vignettes and have a few laughs while also appreciating that they continue to be our focus. We look forward to getting them all back to the healthcare facilities for their clinical learning, but this is a great way to make online learning as interactive and fun as possible while also achieving the course outcomes.”

With a focus on continuous improvement, students were surveyed on their experiences. “The faculty was absolutely outstanding in adjusting to this process with us and were constantly available for questions and meetings,” says one student. Another says, “I was still able to see my professors and other students through Zoom lectures. My professors got back to me very quickly and made time to present the material through both Zoom and recorded lectures.”

Best Practices in Remote Teaching CertificateThere is, however, always room to grow. A week-long Faculty Institute for Remote Teaching Excellence was held in June. School of Education Dean Dr. Sara Quay says, “We surveyed faculty and students about their spring remote teaching and learning experience and used that data to identify areas in which we could offer professional development.” Some 400 full- and part-time faculty and staff participated from across the Endicott spectrum representing graduate, undergraduate, professional studies, and Boston programs, plus international education. One hundred seventy-five faculty members that completed eight sessions received the Endicott College Best Practices in Remote Teaching Certificate.

With visits to the College’s scenic campus currently on hold, the Office of Admission is offering innovative ways to connect with prospective students and their families. Virtual meetings can be scheduled with Admission staff, and virtual tours of the campus (either self-led or with a student tour guide) are available. Videos that showcase first-year living spaces are accessible at any time.

Throughout this crisis, members from every department, whether Student Affairs, Academic Success, or the Diane M. Halle Library, have developed new ways to interact with and support students. Endicott’s innovative and adaptive community is staying connected virtually—for now. Go Gulls!