EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) -- Students at UW-Eau Claire are grabbing their caps and gowns to say goodbye to college after a year that changed the way they learned and the way many see higher education.
In Spring of 2020, students went home for spring break but never came back.
"Last spring, we pretty much had to throw out the playbook entirely," Associate Professor of Sociology and Communications Peter Hart-Brinson said.
When the pandemic hit, students were told to retrieve their belongings and finish the year from home.
Now, a year later, switches from all-virtual to hybrid learning have left some students with whiplash. But the newly-elected student body president Jaden Mikoulinskii is focusing on the positives.
"In general, I would say UW-Eau Claire did the absolute best they could with what they had," she said.
However, there were bumps in the road starting with technology.
"Faculty who hadn't taught online before had to rethink their courses, and some cases totally redesign them to account for the online and hybrid teaching modalities," Hart-Brinson said.
Also with the adjustment to online-learning and then back to in-person.
"I noticed that as we slowly transitioned back to in-person. It's kind of like re-learning how to be a student," Mikoulinskii said.
"We were all students on a computer screen, and that was it, and we took quizzes. At that point, you could have your textbook and your notes out without any consequences."
Before the pandemic, Mikoulinskii said she thought of online degrees as scary and less legitimate than those earned on campus, in-person. But now, her view on what constitutes a quality education is forever changed.
"Given that we that we transitioned entirely online last spring, our professors are now more knowledgeable about how to use technology, we have stronger technology in terms of accessibility and more equitable for more students," she said.
"I'm sure that a year from today, it's going to be a lot easier for students who are working or are parents to get an online degree from a UW School that had practice with offering all types of classes online."
While the university preps for a hybrid commencement happening this weekend, shots continue going into arms at the walk-in vaccination clinic at Zorn Arena. An effort Mikoulinskii feels will help students get back the full college experience.
"The vaccine is the priority right now," she said. "Making sure we're all healthy and safe. A degree doesn't mean anything if you're six feet below the ground."