Located in Campbellsville, Kentucky, Campbellsville University is a Baptist institution that offers a wide range of undergraduate, masters and doctoral programs to students. Open to all denominations and with the goal of serving a broad population, CU has offered online programs for over a decade and entered into a partnership with Wiley Education Services (through The Learning House) in 2002. Through this partnership, CU has expanded its offerings to currently over 50 online degree programs regularly servicing around 1400 students at any given time.
Like many institutions during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, CU moved to an exclusively online and virtual learning model in the fall to help curb the spread of the disease. While it was able to leverage its broad catalog of online offerings CU faced a challenge regarding its chapel credits. Learners are required to attend a certain number of chapel convocations over the course of their degree in order to be eligible for graduation.
In addition to providing convocation credits, CU’s on campus chapel was often considered a centerpiece of campus architecture and a place of gathering and retreat for students that lived at the university. As learners went home, without a clear point of time for them to return, leadership didn’t want them to lose that connection to campus.
Luckily some of the groundwork had already been lain. In 2014, to enhance the experience of the chapel credit both its on ground and online students take, WES media specialists created a virtual recreation of CU’s on-campus chapel, with asynchronous sermons on demand for learners and a forum for the solicitation and giving of prayer for each other. This had served CU’s online population well for several years. However, with the upcoming increase in attendance, the “virtual chapel” needed to be updated and revised to take a more prominent role on campus.
Campbellsville reached out to Wiley in April of 2020 to discuss making several content updates to the chapel to prepare it for the Fall term. As WES’s instructional media consultants and instructional designers dug into the materials for the current chapel, they realized that there would be an opportunity to do more for CU than just update the sermon series and the music. They reached out to Dr. Shane Garrison the main point of contact for WES at CU to outline their plan.
First, the old virtual chapel had been developed using out of date technology and had a dated look and feel. WES opted instead to rebuild the chapel from the foundation using a H5P, a web-based media authoring tool that allows for a variety of student experiences. In lieu of a computer-generated environment, Dr. Garrison borrowed a camera from campus and took a 360-degree picture of the inside of the chapel, which WES then used as the virtual environment for the media piece.
The existing sermon videos had been in flash, which was being discontinued. In their stead, CU sent WES the YouTube playlist of their sermon recordings in the chapel and WES added them back into the new H5P chapel as a hot spot, along with others for web resources on a series of Baptist teachings. A link to a prayer forum was placed in the Chapel media piece as well and the course shell in which the content was housed was updated to improve the look and feel.
What was most important was that CU was able to maintain the chapel as a special part of the institution’s sense of place. Dr. Garrison noted, that “as a faith-based institution, weekly chapel is an essential part of our identity and campus life. With the help of Wiley instructional designers and media specialists, we were able to redesign and overhaul our existing online chapel portal in less than 30 days. The Wiley team supported us with new photography, customized graphics, and enhanced experiential tools giving us the ability to make the virtual chapel the best possible experience for our entire student body.”
Figure 1:CU chapel course and virtual chapel media piece.
While CU was able to welcome many of its students to campus, the virtual chapel remained available to students both on ground and online in order to maintain social distancing standards.
“As the semester began,” Shane noted, “thousands of students accessed the online chapel. Students from all Campbellsville University locations viewed chapel messages, posted prayer requests, and had access to our campus ministries team in a time when everyone was needing encouragement and inspiration. The help and support of the Wiley design team was instrumental in making this project move from concept to reality in a very short time.”