Revolutionising a hybrid campus experience
Northeastern University built a hybrid, flexible learning model known as "NUFlex," which has left a lasting mark on the student experience.
As soon as it became clear that a traditional college experience in the fall of 2020 would not be feasible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Northeastern University (Northeastern) began preparing for a return to school that would provide students with a safe and flexible learning environment that also fosters human connection and supports high quality education. The plan included everything from launching an on-campus testing centre to de-densifying classrooms and dorms. Two key elements of this return were the introduction of their hybrid "NUflex" learning model and the launch of the Student Hub. In order to maintain a sense of community to keep students enrolled, Northeastern created an innovative student experience that kept students socially and academically engaged in whatever learning format they felt comfortable.
Drawing from Accenture’s expertise in digital design, as well as their partnership with Northeastern, the team successfully developed and deployed several digital tools within a matter of weeks to allow around 30,000 students to safely return to campus.
The primary tool is the Student Hub, a portal that serves as the students’ home base for key class information, applications, resources and community engagement. It helps students navigate and keep track of their busy lives using a variety of Microsoft products - including features like:
The other tools include the COVID-19 Scheduler, which students use to manage required testing appointments and schedule their vaccines. And finally, the Dynamic Class Scheduler on the Student Hub used to submit weekly preferences for attending class in-person or remotely. The tool then assigns available seats to students who want to physically attend class and provides Northeastern faculty with a roster of who has been cleared to attend. Together, these three tools: the Student Hub, the Covid-19 Scheduler and the Dynamic Class Scheduler deliver integrated insights, notifications and university content to enable the NUFlex model and deliver a highly personalised experience that encourages greater collaboration and engagement, while also keeping students and staff safe.
The transition to NUFlex and the implementation of these digital tools involved extensive collaboration with cross-departmental Northeastern leaders and community members. Embracing Northeastern’s culture of experiential learning, the project team also regularly collaborated with a group of 10 student interns, who directly and continually provided insight into the student experience, helped prioritise new features and shaped content for the site.
Northeastern achieved immediate results with these new digital tools:
While we all hope for a future where COVID tests are no longer regularly required, the tools and practises that have been developed will leave a lasting mark on the future of teaching and learning at Northeastern. Looking ahead, Northeastern will continue to improve and innovate to meet the needs of its students in a post-COVID era and fulfil its vision of becoming a bold and visionary leader in higher education by focusing on the human experience.
"It’s really important to take the opinion of a customer before delivering a product and that’s what was done."