Zoom Offers ‘Potential for Enduring Change’ in How This Global University Reaches Students
Taking education beyond the four walls of a classroom is a core tenet of University of Maryland Global Campus’ (UMGC) mission. Through a combination of online, hybrid, and in-person education at 170 classrooms and learning centers around the world, UMGC enables working professionals, active-duty military members, and other nontraditional students to learn from anywhere.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, UMGC Europe’s on-base learning centers closed and administrative staff members began working remotely. Students transitioned relatively seamlessly to continuing classes online from home, but staff had to rethink how to deliver on-site services like advising and registration support, especially to a global student body.
Zoom Phone supports ‘work from wherever’
Telephony became a huge challenge when UMGC Europe’s multinational team transitioned to remote work. UMGC Europe even considered buying local cellphones in each country for faculty and staff members, but decided to pilot Zoom’s unified platform in its region.
“With Zoom Phone, we had everything we needed to provision over 100 users remotely. We rolled it out in 11 different countries and were able to get local phone numbers,” said Timothy Holliefield, associate director of technical support at UMGC Europe. “The relief was immediate. We don’t want to be without it.”
Zoom Phone gives staff members the flexibility to answer their desk phones from home, and even create call queues that rotate incoming calls among administrative staff. “We have a great deal of confidence that we’re able to reach and be reached by students, even when we’re not in the office,” Holliefield said.
Virtual offices enable face-to-face connection
“We’re an on-site and online school, but when it comes to student services, we believe that human connection is important,” Holliefield said. “We now have virtual offices on Zoom to serve our students, and we’ve gotten a lot of traffic through them.”
Virtual offices are open Zoom meetings where students can drop in to get help from available support staff. If a private conversation needs to take place, staff members use Breakout Rooms.
Holliefield sees virtual offices and other student services continuing post-pandemic. “This isn’t just a COVID-19 response. There’s potential for enduring change to the way we do business,” he said. “One of the challenges with serving students in more remote locations is that they may not have access to the same services. Now we can explore the possibility of offering an in-depth advising session remotely when it’s not possible to meet in person.”
Continuing UMGC Europe’s educational mission
In addition to enabling educational delivery, Zoom has become a platform for delivering new experiences, fueling connection, and creating a sense of community through diversity events, trivia nights, and new student orientations.
UMGC Europe also brought its field study program (where students travel and learn for a week in different European cities) online when COVID-19 put a pause on travel. “We sent a faculty member to Frankenstein Castle in Germany and she did a virtual tour for students. Next, we did Rothenburg,” said Joshua Camacho, National Test Center and live-streaming program manager for UMGC Europe.
“It’s another example of how Zoom has allowed us to continue delivering our educational mission and connect to each other to provide the services our students need,” Camacho added. “And it’s done that by basically replacing everything we used in the past with one platform [for video, phone, and webinars].”