The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is a public research university. UCLA is the number-one public university in the United States, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report.
Events are a key part of UCLA’s strategy to educate and build connections, not only among students and faculty but also in its community. It hosts orientation events for new students, graduation ceremonies, educational events for the public, and more.
In 2020, UCLA needed to move all of its in-person events online.
Lisa Garibay, Public Relations and Diversity Manager for the Division of Physical Sciences at UCLA, wanted to create a virtual experience for UCLA’s events that closely mirrored the in-person experience.
For the UCLA Physical Sciences team, this meant using a more advanced platform than a virtual meeting tool. Garibay explains that an online meeting tool would require event attendees to navigate to and from dozens or even hundreds of different virtual rooms with unique links.
Instead, UCLA wanted an event platform that could handle all of their events—both large community events and small student-orientation events —and give attendees one place to access all of the different areas of an event. They also wanted to create the sense of an interactive, in-person experience.
“People are tired of online meetings, but not necessarily tired of being online to connect because that's all we really have,” she says.
UCLA found their ideal event platform in Hopin. “We chose Hopin specifically because we felt it would best replicate specific in-person events where interpersonal connection and hands-on interaction were key.”
First, they used Hopin for a series of internal, orientation events to welcome new students to UCLA in the fall of 2020. During these events, students could meet and build relationships with faculty, older students, and their classmates. They also attended sessions and panels to orient them to their new university.
“It was so critical for us to have a way for these new students to feel welcome and to feel a support system behind them at a time which was nothing like what they've been imagining college was going to be like,” says Garibay.
After successfully hosting this series of orientation events on Hopin, UCLA also chose to host Exploring Your Universe—an annual, free, public community event—on Hopin.
Exploring Your Universe (EYU) is a science fair with activities for kids from kindergarten through grade 12. It includes interactive booths, guided virtual science demonstrations, science talks, and Q&As where students can ask scientists questions.
Hopin features UCLA used:
When hosted in person, EYU’s hands-on science demonstrations are the most memorable part of the event. To replicate this experience, UCLA used Hopin’s Expo feature and booths for the science demonstrations.
“The expo functionality was unmatched,” says Garibay. “I cannot imagine how we would have been able to replicate virtually this in-person event and the experience of having so much going on at the same time if we didn't have something like Hopin. It would have been impossible. We were able to create that feel of being on campus and moving from booth to booth.”
UCLA created more than 40 virtual booths in the expo area of Hopin—including an information booth for attendees to ask general questions, an elephant toothpaste experiment booth, a candy boat racers lab where attendees designed boats out of foil, and many more.
For the interactive Q&A, UCLA leveraged Hopin’s Sessions. “The sessions were also fantastic in terms of being able to connect people intimately and interactively with scientists,” says Garibay.
“We'd never before had the opportunity for kids to be able to chat with our renowned faculty in such an intimate way. This was one instance where hosting an event online was a bonus, because it allowed our scientists to connect with attendees where in-person scheduling may not have allowed.
"We were even able to offer bilingual Q&A sessions to reach an even broader audience. Both our professors and the kids who attended loved that!”
Another highlight of the event was their keynote speaker—Andrea Ghez, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics—who spoke about black holes. UCLA used a Hopin Stage for this keynote speech. “It was an extraordinary opportunity,” says Garibay. “We considered that a screaming success.”
Over 2,000 people from around the world joined the Exploring Your Universe event. “It was a huge boon for us because in person we're only able to bring in people from Los Angeles and people who can get to the UCLA campus,” says Garibay. “But we were able to spread the joy far and wide this year.”
Colleagues from other departments at UCLA who attended Exploring Your Universe were impressed with Hopin. Garibay says, “They came to us saying, ‘Hopin was great. How can we use it too?’”
Garibay explains that Hopin gave UCLA the ability to host unique, memorable, interactive events. “We were able to give our attendees an experience that felt very different from and very special compared to other things they were attending or interacting with,” says Garibay.