EOU Adapting to a New Digital Era

Being an online student can have many perks: flexibility, tailored learning style and especially convenience. However, despite the perks, many students attending Eastern Oregon University online still lack connection and community. In a progressive move toward inclusivity, the Accessibility Club, an up-and-coming club at EOU, has expanded its outreach to include online students. This strategic decision aims to bridge the gap between students attending EOU in-person and the growing population of remote learners.

As educational norms continue to evolve, integrating online students into extracurricular activities has become increasingly pertinent, especially after the changes that occurred from COVID-19. Recognizing this need, the Accessibility Club has revamped its approach, embracing technology such as Zoom to ensure that every member, regardless of location, can participate and contribute meaningfully to the club’s community and goals.

The Accessibility Club’s founder and online member, Miguel Viveros Chavez, expressed excitement about the initiative, “I wanted to make a space for students and faculty who have disabilities or are allies to have a space, no matter if it was on campus or online, to feel safe and comfortable and just kind of have a space where it is not just about going to disability services but to have another area to relax and enjoy themselves and to have allies and partnerships and accountability within higher education.”

To facilitate the inclusion of online students, the Accessibility Club has implemented various innovative measures. These include the exercising of virtual meeting spaces, where members can interact with peers in real time. This allows for all members to be included in discussions and to collaborate in club projects and events. “We are starting study groups for online and in-person students and are hoping at some point to integrate cultural events such as Black History Month and Women’s History Month and later coordinating with the library to create workshops for students to participate in,” stated Chavez about the community-building events the club is hoping to grow.

The response from both in-person and online members has been overwhelmingly positive. Many online students have expressed gratitude for the Accessibility Club’s efforts to integrate them into campus life while also making them feel valued within a community. “As an online student in a smaller town, it is hard to find a third space where I can really be involved in something, whether it just be making friends or contributing to social change. However, the Accessibility Club has allowed me to do both while also making me feel more connected to EOU,” remarked a remote member who requested anonymity.

The decision to include online students reflects a broader trend that Eastern Oregon University is starting to see within its clubs. With technology serving as a powerful enabler of connectivity and the rising population of remote students, clubs across campus are starting to leverage digital platforms to engage with members remotely and in-person.

Looking ahead, Miguel Viveros Chavez outlined some fun activities that online and in-person members may see in the future. “Our goals are we are wanting to do an art gallery to gather funding for the club. We are hoping to showcase art from people with disabilities to hopefully have an art gallery at the school for on-campus students to get an understanding of what it really means to have a disability,” Chavez stated.

As connection and community begin to blur between physical and digital spaces, initiatives like those undertaken by the Accessibility Club show how communities can be fostered and adapted to the online and offline worlds. The Accessibility Club meets every first and third Monday of the month at 7 pm over Zoom.

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