The COVID-19 pandemic caused a mass interruption to daily life lasting almost an entire academic year. Return to normalcy was hard won and phased over the following academic year. Neither time-period offered “traditional” learning experiences in academic institutions. The extent to which the operational shut-down affected academic institutions and their learners is just now beginning to be elucidated. Human resource development (HRD) is uniquely positioned to apply established and newly developed theories and applications to the study of this phenomenon. One particular case lends itself to observation. A major academic medical center launched a technology-driven state-of-the-art simulation education center mere months before the shut-down. Subsequently, campus leadership invested heavily in technologies to offer first-of-the-kind online learning platforms for students in the healthcare professions including medical, nursing, health professions, and graduate school of biomedical sciences. This study tracked their grades across years to provide a snapshot of academic performance trends for the institutional leadership. The study took advantage of the institutionally created student survey and tailored questions to address COVID-19 effects and challenges on students. These data were publicly available and accessed for this study, as the university published deidentified responses to the survey online. The institution also shared the published licensure exam pass rates that were used for this study. In this case study with a mixed-methods research design, I analyzed these data to shed light on the effects of the pandemic on the student population of the case institution. Triangulation of the data revealed a multi-faceted challenge resulting from the many hardships caused by the pandemic. Students suffered direct effects including the loss of loved ones, financial troubles, as well as difficulty in engaging online in their new learning environment. However, the data showed that though the statistical impact of the pandemic was considered significant, it had a minimal effect size. The mitigation of the negative effects on the student population was partially attributed to the leveraging of virtual reality and simulation activities used to substitute for in-person clinicals. Reviewing these datasets for correlations provided valuable insight into the timeless application of HRD principles relevant to interrupted training and education as a result of increasing campus disruptions caused by political unrest, natural disasters, and climate change. Of paramount importance, are the contributions provided to the study population by Virtual HRD (VHRD) tools and resources. As the world continues to experience an increase in the frequency with which we see these disruptions happening, the tenets of both HRD and VHRD will help stabilize the training environment for learners as they cope with the events of their particular disaster.

Date of publication

Winter 2023

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Committee members

Dr. Greg Wang, Dr. Rochell McWhorter, Dr. Paul Roberts


PhD in Human Resource Development