UE Pandemic Response and Campus Return
When the pandemic of 2020 began, the University of California, Riverside (UCR) was immediately focused on how to create a sense of community and how to ensure first-generation students were supported in a new, virtual environment. UCR transitioned rapidly to an online learning environment, and based on local and state circumstances, we transitioned online in March 2020 and are planned to continue to remain remote through September 2021. Prior to the pandemic, UCR had very few online courses, our students had little experience with online campus course environments and services, and our infrastructure through which to support students outside in-person interactions were both aging and inconsistent. At the start of the pandemic, UCR launched a series of First-Gen Chats, listening sessions, and social hours, via video chats for feedback and socialization. These sessions quickly informed the campus on how to adapt our structures and services, which areas were of critical need, and where we were falling short in supporting students. Out of these sessions and other efforts, we grew three new supports and services for students: ScottyBot, AskUCR, and Campus Collective, along with online learning support for teachers and students (Keep Teaching and Keep Learning).
UCR Keep Teaching is designed to be an information resource and a campus community to help you teach remotely during campus closure. The Keep Teaching website contains Quick Guides to Zoom, iLearn, and Yuja, as well as Best Practices for Exams in iLearn and suggestions for online assignments, Recording Lectures, and more.
The Keep Learning website, which has served as the remote learning hub for students since the shutdown. UCR's online learning support site for students, Keep Learning contains remote learning tips, goal setting, and time management resources, online assignment resources, online proctoring information, instructional technology tutorials, resources on free software, loaner laptops, and Wi-Fi hotspots to help students keep connected to their academic experience.
Prior to the pandemic, UCR had invested in a chatbot to provide student support. ScottyBot is a chatbot, which uses a crafted knowledge base to answer users' questions and provides guidance regarding campus resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. Due to staff transitions, the bot was sitting on a digital shelf and wasn’t being utilized. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated staff across campus, multiple units pulled together to complete the bot and launch the service. To date, the chatbot has had 19,000 conversations with users since it was launched on June 22nd, 2020. Those conversations resulted in over 50,000 interactions with users. Careful attention was placed upon making all answers accessible, with clear contact information and calls to action for students. The bot was designed with language accessibility, incorporating an ability to communicate in English, Spanish, and Chinese–the three most frequently used languages by students and our community. Most notably, additional time was spent to craft, revise, and incorporate our first-gen Jargon guide into ScottyBot to better help address student questions and better navigate the higher education environment. Students have posed answers such as, "What is a Pell grant?”, “How to apply for loans?”, and “How to get a NetID?" ScottyBot makes referrals to campus personnel when unable to answer questions, and LiveChat features are being launched over the next year to better communicate with students.
Growing from student feedback that campus resources were difficult to find online, the First-Gen Initiatives group and the Office of Undergraduate Education at UCR designed and launched a student one-stop resource site. Ask.ucr.edu was designed to be a student resource hub, providing guidance to where answers were located across the institution. The site features the ScottyBot chatbot, a Library-hosted ‘Ask a Student’ live chat, referrals to online learning support resources, a widget of important campus deadlines, video tutorials, and resource introductions, and links to major campus student supports and engagement opportunities. From the beginning, AskUCR was dedicated to providing quick referrals to campus resources and easy navigation to browse the depth and breadth of possible supports. AskUCR has been a robust source for student support, garnering over 4,000 unique views in the first month alone. AskUCR is dedicated to helping students find resources and putting campus services in accessible language to reduce barriers to asking for help. If you don’t know, AskUCR!
Campus sought to address the profound sense of isolation and impacts to the sense of belonging expressed by students as a result of remote learning. Students indicated they wanted less time on their computers in Zoom rooms. Students expressed it was hard to connect with one another and wanted ways to authentically connect with one another. To address these concerns, UCR launched a text-message based mentoring program (Campus Collective) for incoming freshmen and transfer students for the fall of 2020. Utilizing volunteer peer mentors, the campus quickly had over 2,100 continuing students register to support their incoming peers. Within the first three months of the program, over 36% of the freshman class and 27% of the transfer class (as of Feb. 2021) have engaged volunteer mentors. Students have exchanged over 39,000 text messages with one another and have sent UCR critical feedback on how mentees were feeling and where they needed support. Mentors, trained and provided with mentoring resource sites, have made amazing strides in providing a sense of ‘after class’ conversations, or ‘hallway’ mentoring to students who have never set foot on campus.
UCR RISE Classrooms
Return to Campus - Fall 2021
The pandemic has drastically impacted the global community, and the students of UC Riverside have not been immune to this turmoil. While some of the challenges brought on by the pandemic were foreseeable — financial hardship, stress and anxiety, widening achievement gaps, loss of learning, and racial inequities have been unpredictable. The long-term impacts are not yet known and the learning recovery path will vary among our students. Since the start of the pandemic, Undergraduate Education has been planning for and responding to these challenges.
The initiatives that follow aim to amplify our efforts to address the unique needs of UCR’s student population, expand the reach of our internal programs, and strengthen collaborations between campus partners to have the most significant impact on students’ time to degree, retention and persistence, achievement gaps, and transfer success.
These initiatives help build an ecosystem of learning that impacts:
● Better Connections for Students
● Stronger Achievement Outcomes
● Higher Graduation Rates
● Increased Satisfaction with the UCR Experience
● Better Preparation for the Workforce and Graduate School
The following is a list of projects and programs that the campus is implementing to ensure student success.
Expanded Tutoring and Supplemental Instruction
- The ARC expanded its services by 50%, adding 30 additional tutors and supplemental instruction leaders to support students in courses with higher rates of D and F letter grades or course withdrawals.
- Tutoring - Small group/individual tutoring services
- Supplemental Instruction - Peer-led discussion sections for classes with high failure and withdrawal rates
Second Nature program for Sophomores
- To help returning sophomores with transitioning to campus after a year of online courses. The program includes interpersonal relationship skill-building, public speaking, social activities designed around majors, and pairing sophomores with an ARC-trained peer mentor for support. Students will also participate in study skill workshops, personal goal setting, personal brands and self-advocacy training, and more.
Expanded Highlander Early Start Academy (HESA)
- The HESA summer bridge program helps incoming first-year students to complete course work (earning 8-10 units), participate in community building programming like peer mentoring, and become acclimated to the university in the summer immediately before their first year. We have expanded HESA by 50% for incoming first-year students and increased HESA scholarships.
- UE is upgrading the Transfer Success Zone, tutoring bays, meeting rooms, supplemental instruction classrooms, and ARC 35 in the Academic Resource Center.
Rooms for Increasing Student Engagement (RISE) classroom improvements
- Improvements were made to 110 classrooms, adding technology for hybrid class dual-modality engagement between students attending class in-person and those attending virtually. Technology upgrades include pan/tilt/zoom cameras, CatchBoxes-throwable microphones, YuJa course capture, Microphone arrays to pick up voices across the class, Zoom classroom integration, new whiteboards, and more. Instructors who use these rooms will be able to teach a course online and in person at the same time; additionally, all students will be able to interact with each other and view the instructor’s teaching materials, in real-time. Faculty members can choose to share their classes with remote participants live via Zoom, or they can record their courses in YuJa and post lectures on iLearn or eLearn.
- RISE classrooms
Advising Conference Room Upgrades
Conference room technologies have been upgraded to support simultaneous remote and in-person advising in the below rooms.
• CNAS—Pierce Hall 2301
• CHASS—Humanities 1500
• SOE—Sproul 1215
• BUSINESS—Anderson 105
• SPP—Sproul 1223
Instructional Continuity Consultants
- 50 Instructional Continuity Consultants (ICCs) have been trained as rapid response team members to support instructors merge their pedagogical needs with new tools and technologies. They will also support key classrooms that contain courses where students typically struggle more.
Transition to Canvas
- UCR began transitioning from the Blackboard LMS to Canvas last summer and is currently at 50% conversion of courses, expecting full conversion before spring 2022. The XCITE center offers faculty workshops and tutorials.
ITS: Loan2Learn Program
- ITS has loaner laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots for student use during the year. The program started in March 2020, giving out 1,223 laptops and hotspots. There will be an additional 300 laptops available for students this coming fall.
- Undergraduate Education, University Innovation Alliance, and 4 other campus departments (Financial Aid, Student Business Services, Housing, and Registrar) launched the ScottyBot 24/7 chatbot in June 2020. With a knowledge base of over 1,497 answers to questions, including live chat from Financial Aid, ScottyBot has answered over 117,000 questions (in 43,187 conversations).
- The Admissions Office was added to the chatbot this spring, and we are in the process of adding the rest of campus to ScottyBot this fall.
Undergraduate Education has procured 5 licenses to use StreamYard, a platform allowing users to live-stream video to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. StreamYardallows for branded content to be shared with online students to help remote students feel a connection to campus.
In conjunction with ITS, UCR will be making LinkedIn Learning accessible to all students on campus starting with the fall 2021 quarter.
- LinkedIn Learning provides videos and tutorials on career development, academic support, wellness, technology tutorials, study skills, leadership development, and more.
- Faculty and staff will have the ability to develop personalized Collections and Learning Paths consisting of sets of videos for courses, office or lab training, professional development, and more.
UCR has acquired a three-year license for Piazza, which is a platform that allows instructors to rapidly assess learning loss early in the course with in-depth assessment tools to determine learning issues that require additional personalized instructor-based mitigation and remediation strategies. Piazza is already integrated with the Canvas learning management system for simple student roster integration.
More than 50% of undergraduate students will never have been on campus before, so this year, in collaboration with Student Life, we hosted additional Welcome Week activities to help acclimate students to campus. Welcome Week activities included:
- 'Ask Me' booths were set up across campus for the first few days of classes to help give directions, answer student questions, and distribute new UCR spirit shirts.
- Faculty and Staff were given "Ask Me" buttons to help make campus more welcoming and encourage students to ask for help.
- Several virtual resource fairs were held allowing students to get connected to student organizations and clubs, along with other campus resources.
Expanding Writing Support (SOE)
Additional funding is supporting an increase in the writing center support staff to assist the coming influx of students who will require writing assistance.
- In response to our change to online learning last year, we implemented Campus Collective, a text-based mentoring program supporting freshmen and transfer students. Last year we engaged 36% of the freshman class (1,800), and 32% of transfer students (723), with over 58,000 text messages exchanged.
- We are pleased that we are once again able to bring this program to incoming freshmen and transfer students for the 2021-22 academic year, and we launched our program for freshmen in July 2021 and transfer students in mid-August.
- Currently, 46% of the freshmen population (2,750) and 35% of the transfer students (843) are matched to a mentor!
- Campus Collective
Incentive Grant Interventions
To help students with increased financial needs as a result of the pandemic, UCR has created a fund for students with COVID-related hardships. Grants are up to $1000 to cover bills, housing, and transportation costs to and from campus.
Peer Mentor Expansion
HEERF funds were used to expand the number of peer mentors in the ARC, Chicano Student Programs, African Student Programs, Office of Foster Youth Support Services, and the six undergraduate colleges and schools. Peer mentors help students with pre-advising for STEM majors and research opportunities, develop a sense of belonging, and persist in studies.
Stop-out Student Re-engagement
To create a pathway for the return of “stop-outs” (students who stopped attending UCR due to the pandemic and its effects), we are utilizing systematic outreach targeting 15% of stop-out students and offering tuition remission for single concurrent classes via University Extension (UNEX).