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Annual student symposium quickly adapts into an interactive virtual showcase

Maureen Schlangen, University of Dayton and Rachael Zaleski, Elsevier | May 08, 2020

Stander symposium


After COVID-19 sent higher education to the remote realm, a swift customization by Elsevier’s Digital Commons institutional repository team ensured that a popular student symposium at the University of Dayton didn’t become a casualty.


The Brother Joseph W. Stander Symposium, which marked its 30th anniversary on April 22, 2020, is typically a daylong event that showcases student work, including research presentations, panel discussions, exhibits and performances. Following the event, the projects are uploaded to eCommons, UD’s Digital Commons repository.


As symposium planners considered alternatives, they quickly saw new potential for eCommons as not just a repository but as a presentation medium, too.


Tessa Handa, a Digital Commons consulting services manager, worked with her technical team to create a streaming window for pre-recorded presentations from WarpWire, UD’s video platform. Students presenting live used Zoom, and as always, students could make projects available for download. Visitors to the 2020 symposium collection could access any combination of the three from the same item record in the repository.


“Originally, my presentation was supposed to be a poster presentation,” said mathematics major Jack Dalton, who presented on isomorphism theorems to 36 attendees. “I decided to make it a live presentation to connect more with my audience and to be able to explain some of the information. I was surprised at how well my presentation translated to an online format and how it allowed for me to still connect with my audience.” 




By the end of the day, the event drew more than 9,000 people to view 307 works by almost 600 students. Each project in the collection receives a permanent URL, which is useful on LinkedIn profiles, social media accounts and graduate school applications. PlumX Metrics capture abstract views, downloads and social media mentions.




“While a virtual presentation can’t replace in-person scholarly engagement, those numbers were a happy side effect of an unfortunate complication,” said Maureen Schlangen, e-scholarship and communications manager in the Roesch Library.


“An audience of 36 for a 20-minute presentation would have been hard to achieve in a traditional poster session,” she said. “Next year, I could see us using eCommons again as part of a hybrid model. It expanded access far beyond the campus community.”