ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — As the pandemic continues, more college students are turning to online classes for the knowledge and skills they’ll need to graduate. 

What You Need To Know

  • Due to the pandemic, online classes are being used more and more at universities and colleges across the country

  • At UCF, instructional design staff help make sure teachers and students can get creative

  • UCF is listed in the top-15 universities nationwide for online bachelor programs by U.S. News and World Report

And universities are stepping up to improve their online courses. The continued focus on online classes and learning at UCF is helping both the university and its graduates for the future. 

On a warm Tuesday afternoon, few students are walking around the University of Central Florida's campus. With the pandemic halting many in-person class, most students are turning to computers for online courses instead.

“So for nurses, our schedules are all over the place, and so it just provides so much flexibility,” said Mallory Mauney, who graduated from UCF in December 2020 with her masters in science and nursing with a health care simulation specialization. 

Online and hybrid online/in-person classes made up nearly all of Mauney’s classes. She said she appreciated that it made it easier to juggle work and school at the same time. 

For the third semester in a row, the majority of UCF’s classes are being taught remotely, so instructional design staff members are stepping up to make sure teachers and students can still get creative. 

“If they need graphics, we set them up with that. Video, we set them up with that,” said Kathleen Bastedo, an instructional designer at UCF.

Custom software can be created in some cases, too.  

For the health care simulation certificate program, custom software creates training rooms. Before, students were creating these same assignment on pencil and paper and scanning it in. Now, they build it. 

“So having this software where they can create, take a screenshot and submit it as the assignment – it’s a lot easier for students,” Bastedo said. 

Customized video, graphics, and even software embedded in online coursework, can help students stay engaged while learning from home. And learning through creative simulations can help cement skills for students in future careers. 

“While you’re practicing, you’re actually cognitively thinking about, 'Oh, what do I need?' You can’t just squiggle something and get something quick. You’re doing a deeper dive into the information,” said Desiree Diaz, an associate professor at UCF and simulation operations course lead. 

During the pandemic, universities around the country are continuing to rely on online and hybrid-model courses to keep students and staff safe. Those online skills are paying off for many students after graduation. For Mauney, simulation skills learned now allow her to teach nurses through real-life situations.

“It prepares you to respond to say, life-threatening emergencies, where you’ve already developed those motor skills and recognition skills. So it's not a new experience," Mauney said. 

This is the 25th year for online learning at UCF.  A recent report by U.S. News and World Report ranks UCF in the top-15 universities nationwide for online bachelor programs.  Embry Riddle and the University of Florida were also named.