Students, staff, faculty, and community members on campuses across the country are more connected than ever thanks to technology that is accessed on a daily—and sometimes even hourly—basis. This level of connection and technology creates a unique set of advantages and disadvantages for our recreation and wellbeing centers. The NIRSA Assembly has been tasked with thinking critically about how we, as collegiate recreation professionals, can leverage technology and the virtual world to better serve our populations’ wellbeing.
Some areas the Assembly will investigate include approaches to the physical, psychological, and social wellbeing of students in an online capacity; providing resources for students and promoting connectedness instead of isolation in a virtual world; and identifying disruptors in the industry and how these disruptors might impact or influence campus recreation’s programming and future planning.
While initial discussions on the topic are just in the beginning phases, the NIRSA Assembly has started by gathering information regarding how technology is being used to benefit the wellbeing of students on Assembly members’ own campuses.
NIRSA Assembly members discuss virtual wellbeing on their campuses
Jessica Kiss, Instructor at Bowling Green State University, says the university offers AlcoholEdu to incoming students. “Also, we offer what we call ‘Physical Education, General’ courses that are offered 100% online. We have an online wellness course and offer other courses like yoga online.”
“We provide short videos on our YouTube channel that provide instruction for personal workouts and demo group exercise classes,” explains Victoria Lopez-Herrera, Senior Associate Director at The University of Texas at San Antonio.
Rachael Stephan, Competitive Sports & Recreational Programs Coordinator at Cleveland State University, explains that CSU uses technology with its sport clubs and for group fitness classes. Sport clubs are integrated with HITCheck, a cognitive assessment aid that helps administrators track the unique performance of each athlete over time and screen for any changes or potential injuries that may require medical attention. “This technology-based method utilizes your smartphone to perform what’s called a sideline assessment of an individual’s performance,” says Rachael. “It analyzes balance, reaction time, coordination, short-term memory, long-term memory, color recognition, impulse control, pattern recognition, and problem solving.”
Rachael adds, “Our group fitness program at CSU utilizes technology in our F45 classes. F45 training is a global fitness training community that combines elements of HIIT, circuit training and functional training. The workouts are powered by technology through apps, TV prompters, and real-time-on-screen heart rate readings.”
“The University of Houston is providing skype interviews with our dietetic interns to organize food and nutrition plans and promote healthy eating habits to prevent and treat illness,” says Claudia Cooper, Rec Sports and Family Programs at the University of Houston. “Also, we offer a free service online where students can sign up for a free patron program where they will fill out a questionnaire and be matched with the exercise program that fits their fitness experience level and goals. Examples of programs would include a plan for weight loss, general fitness, and strength.”
“At Mount Royal University, we are currently focusing on physical wellness through recreation programming, as well as social wellness with intentional community building in our programs, services, and facilities tied to the university’s ‘You Belong Here’ campaign,” explains Jesse Sheets, Adventure Programming Supervisor at Mount Royal University.
“Our Wellness Services department—particularly the Healthy Campus Team—provide integrated wellness programming including health care, mental health support and counselling, equity and inclusion support, nutrition guides, and peer mentorship. This is largely delivered through in-person programming, though there is also virtual access to programs and learning resources via their Campus Well program, both in e-magazine and app formats.”
Mount Royal also regularly runs an immersion yoga class in the library’s new immersion studio, which blends a traditional in-person yoga class with a virtually augmented environment.
Virtual wellbeing is a focal point on many campuses, and there are so many different ways to utilize technology to the benefit of students. The NIRSA Assembly will continue to dive deeper into this topic throughout the year, so stay on the lookout for more NIRSA News articles with information on trends, resources, and strategies for supporting virtual wellbeing!
- For more information, please contact NIRSA Leadership Programs Coordinator Chelsea Hansson.