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Wheeling University Staying Connected to Students Through the Use of Google Hangouts


When Wheeling University decided to move course delivery online March 16, members of the administration looked for ways to ensure a smooth transition to virtual learning and at the same time allow students and faculty to ‘hangout.’

Google Hangouts, a digital communication tool, is allowing faculty, staff and students to come together to have conversations, course counseling and hangout sessions online. This is just one more service the University has implemented to keep students learning while also keeping them safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sessions are being held twice a week with Devon Leonard, Director of Student Success and John L’Ecuyer, Coordinator of Career Services. In advance, students are invited to join the session by clicking a link sent to them via email.

“Google Hangouts are important, because they give faculty, staff, and students the capability to come together, see each other, and talk as if they were here on-campus together – which is something that is comforting during this time of uncertainty. We can’t begin to understand what challenges students are facing right now,” Leonard said.  

The hangouts will provide students a place where someone is available to answer questions, listen to challenges, and address any concerns – concerns that could be personal or related to online course instruction, she explained.

Google Hangouts isn’t just for course-related conversations.

“Students can use Google Hangouts to talk to classmates about anything they want – from being away from their friends to how they are handling this new normal of social distancing. This isn’t just for instructional help. This is a way for them to continue to connect from a distance and support one another,” Leonard said.

Additionally, Leonard said, Student Services and faculty have offered to host hangouts for students. She sees more and more sessions being added as students and staff decide that distance won’t stop them from getting together virtually to talk and socialize. 

“We will have participation from a variety of campus departments, which allows us to provide students with comprehensive support during this sudden shift to online learning. A faculty member can invite all of his or her students to join a session and allow the class to actually ‘hang out’ together. In my opinion, you can’t get much closer to a real-life, in person classroom interaction than that,” she added.

Also, it’s important, Leonard said, for the students to have face-to-face interaction with classmates and staff. 

University President Ginny R. Favede knows that many students didn’t have the chance to say good bye to friends and staff because of the quick need to move off-campus.

“The Coronavirus has turned all of our lives upside down. I want our students to know while they may not be on-campus, the faculty and staff are here and ready to have conversations with them at their convenience through the use of this digital platform. Even from a distance, we are using every resource possible to help our students,” President Favede added.