WU’s teaching depends on interaction. For this reason, it was also very important to us to offer students – especially first-semester students – the opportunity to come to Campus WU and experience their classes in person, even during the pandemic year.
Our main focus, of course, was always on the safety and health of students and faculty. We continuously kept a close eye on developments in the COVID-19 pandemic and worked out various scenarios that would allow us to react quickly and flexibly to lockdowns and reopening phases.
At the start of the 2020 summer semester, we were able to switch nearly all of our courses to distance-learning formats within 24 hours. Of approximately 2,000 courses offered, only 12 had to be canceled. Exams were also held online. Turn to the chapter “The Digitally Supported University” to find out more about how we managed this and how we handled the technical aspects of courses and exams.
Working together with our dedicated teaching staff, we used the summer break to develop hybrid teaching formats for the 2020/2021 winter semester that combine face-to-face and distance learning.
In October, we were able to implement both hybrid and face-to-face forms of teaching in addition to distance learning: 52% of the courses were held in distance mode, 27% were held in a rotational teaching format (students attend classes in shifts), 13% as hybrid models (livestreamed lectures with some of the students attending in person), and 8% as face-to-face classes.
From November on, legal requirements forced us to switch completely back to distance learning.
Studying from home
WU is an internationally renowned university. Our students come from over 100 countries. At the beginning of the 2020/2021 winter semester, travel restrictions made it impossible for many international first-year students to come to Campus WU to complete the admission process and begin their degree programs. For these students, we had to create conditions that would allow them to study at WU from their home countries.
Students from third countries which were subject to a travel warning were given the opportunity to start their programs online with a conditional admission status.
Keeping in touch with students
We stayed in close contact with our students throughout the year. We kept them up to date about the latest developments on a regular basis by email and on our website and responded to up to 1,000 student inquiries each month.
Support programs, like Student Counselling, were converted to distance mode. On the new Counselling@home platform, we provide helpful tips on mindfulness, individual crisis management, cabin fever, motivation, and time management. Counselling services are also available by video call or phone, and we also offer workshops on exam anxiety, stress management, and dealing with pressure and stress.
Teacher training opportunities
How can I integrate web conferencing tools into my teaching? How do I motivate my students online? What are my options for holding digital exams? These are just a few of the questions WU’s teachers were faced with after the switch to distance learning in March. WU responded by putting together a comprehensive package of support options.
New Selection Procedures
WU’s rare triple accreditation and its excellent performance in international rankings confirm the high quality of our programs. For these reasons, each year, many more young people want to enroll at WU than we can accept. 2020 was no exception. We updated our selection procedures in the spring to give students the opportunity to prepare for the procedure and to make sure they were not confronted with changes on short notice due to the pandemic.
Off to a Good Start Despite COVID-19
In times of the coronavirus pandemic, universities are faced with major challenges. Strict safety and hygiene measures like social distancing make it impossible to hold large-scale classes or other events on campus as usual. Starting a degree program is a unique experience, especially for first-semester students. Large-scale events give them the opportunity to find their bearings, get to know fellow students, and start figuring out how universities work.
Due to the pandemic, all of this had to change in 2020. Through a mix of online welcome events and one large kick-off event, we did our best to help our first-semester students get off to a good start.
Well prepared for the student life adventure
We invited all new students enrolled in our German-taught bachelor’s programs to attend the online Welcome Days on September 14 and 15. Over 1,300 first-year students signed up for the event.
A varied online program was developed, both to help familiarize the new students with WU and their programs and to encourage networking.
Getting to know WU
For young people, starting university is the beginning of a new phase in their lives. For first-semester students, it is important to learn how to navigate the university system as quickly as possible. This is difficult online. Our goal was therefore to give as many as possible of the new students in our German-taught bachelor’s programs who were not subject to travel restrictions the chance to experience what it feels like to attend university classes in person. For our kick-off courses “Introduction to Business Administration” and “Introduction to Law,” we rented a hall at the Austria Center conference center that was large enough to allow our new students to attend the lecture while still maintaining a safe distance.