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Virtual Quad

Fostering Student Engagement During COVID-19

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In late 2020 the Yeti team worked with Northeastern University to build and run a very successful digital event, Northeastern’s Annual Fall Fest.

During this event students had the opportunity to explore the university’s club options and interact with student representatives, all within a retro, pixel-art world.

Due to the overwhelming success of Fall Fest, the University’s Center for Student Involvement sought to expand the remote event concept by developing a “Virtual Quad” as well as a remote orientation experience for the NU School of Law. 


The Virtual Quad  is a weekly experience that provides students with an “on-campus experience” while remote by serving as a central location for students to hang out and chat, and for student organizations to occupy booths to share information, recruit new members and chat.


The NU Law School Orientation experience focuses on interactive booths that provide new students with the information necessary for a smooth transition into the NU School of Law, including maps of classrooms, buildings and surrounding attractions.

Challenge

Our initial challenge in creating the Virtual Quad was to create a compelling and exciting environment that students would want to return to week after week. Our primary objective with this project was to increase student engagement during COVID-19, so it was important that the Virtual Quad recreate the social aspects of the real-world Northeastern Quad.

Because most Northeastern students are currently without a central location, student groups have found it difficult to connect with the larger student population, so an essential part of building the quad experience would be providing a space where organizations would have the opportunity to share information and raise awareness about events etc.

We were additionally challenged with creating a method for allowing student organizers to sign up and secure booths on a weekly basis, and provide them with the ability to easily customize and change the media and information provided in the quad booths week after week.


Solution

For NU's Virtual Quad we created an exciting and dynamic 3D experience that puts some of the most important aspects of NU’s Quad at the fingertips of students who are currently learning from home.

Within the Virtual Quad students have the ability to customize an avatar with which they can use to navigate and explore the environment.

To create a centralized location for sharing information, the Virtual Quad is home to a fixed number of customizable booths that can be reserved by student organizations. These booths contain information, calendars, media galleries, social media links etc. - all supplied by the student organizers who have reserved the booth for that week.

Each booth is additionally integrated with Zoom. During their predetermined time slot, student organizers are expected to join a Zoom room that they’ve configured for their organization, providing any student visiting tables with the ability to quickly and easily enter a video chat with the student organizers.

In order to reserve a virtual quad booth student organizers must first apply by providing their organization details. Once approved, they’re given access to an easy-to-use portal where they have the ability to customize their booth with any relevant information and content.

We’ve additionally provided the team at The Center for Student Involvement with access to a super admin where they have the ability to review student organizations, edit basic information and approve or reject applications.

Finally, as a central part of the Virtual Quad, we created a large infoboard that displays important Northeastern news items and calendar events, similar to a digital billboard. When this infoboard is tapped, the user navigates to a full list of events/information that has been configured by Center for Student Involvement Admins.

For the NU Virtual Law School Orientation our initial challenge was to create an exciting and easily navigable environment that would provide incoming students with all the information necessary for a smooth transition into the NU School of Law.

Because COVID-19 has prevented the university from holding in-person orientations - which would typically include campus tours - a key part of this orientation would be providing students with a sense of familiarity of the campus and surrounding areas.

Additionally, we were challenged with creating a process for allowing faculty and student organizations to customize their orientation “tables” with information and media, and for creating a means for incoming students to communicate with orientation hosts in real time.

For the NU School of Law Orientation we created a dynamic 3D experience that put all of the features of a real-life orientation at the fingertips of incoming NU students. 


Similar to the Virtual Quad, this experience allowed students to navigate and explore the orientation floor, including tables occupied by faculty and student organizations, at their own speed via a personalized avatar. 



Additionally, as a central part of the orientation experience we created a directory of buildings and classrooms. This directory contains “hotspots” that the user can click on to learn more about the specific area. Similarly, the user has the ability to zoom out to areas surrounding the campus and explore areas of interest. 

Outcome

The VirtualQuad launched successfully and continues to have hundreds of attendees every week.

The NU Virtual Law School Orientation was successful in providing a smooth transition for over 200 new law students!