BY; STEVE BUSH, DIRECTOR OF STUDENT LIFE & DEVELOPMENT IVY TECH COMMUNITY COLLEGE – LAFAYETTE
The current social and health concerns we are facing have caused higher education to rethink its delivery methods and learning environments. With social distancing becoming a temporary hallmark in our day-to-day activity, how can campus programmers adapt face-to-face offerings and continue to implement intentional student activities tied to learning outcomes on their campuses in an online setting? Below is a fundamental look at how those in charge of student life and/or co-curricular campus events may develop, implement, and assess online student programming. Furthermore, you will receive tips, tricks, and examples as to what types of experiences you can create in this new online environment to engage your students in an intentional and meaningful way.
HOW DO YOU BEGIN TO CREATE ONLINE PROGRAMMING?
Developing online student activities or co-curricular content starts in the same place as your face-to-face programming creation: with your mission. Ask yourself, “What is the mission of my functional area or program?” or “What is the mission of the college?” Once you are able to affirm this overall mission, you can then begin to cultivate learning outcomes to help further direct what your program content will look like. Make sure that you can measure the success of these learning outcomes through indirect and direct methods of assessment. This concept is especially important regarding the final evaluation of your online activity creation and its ability to provoke student learning. We will explore this concept more later in the article.
What are some “do’s & don’ts” of online student activities and co-curricular development?
Timing of live online events should mirror what you have on campus. Hypothetically, if most students at your institution are generally available at 2PM on Tuesdays to attend your normal on-campus activities, look to schedule live webinars and other online activities at that time as well. Traditional on-campus leisure and free time will generally translate to online leisure and free time. Given that students will be attending via ‘screen’ for the duration of your event, consider keeping online webinars, workshops, and lectures to a 45 to 60-minute time limit so participants don’t check out early.
Just like when your campus hosts TEDX Talks, performers, or entertainment programs, not all students will be able to attend the activity at one convenient time. With live webinars being streamed through a video platform that generally can be recorded, you have the advantage to make your online programming available through digital replay. This appeals to the autonomy that most students enjoy while taking online courses and will allow students to check out the content when it is convenient for them. Post your online program replays in a convenient and accessible web location and watch the views increase!
Speaking of access, make your content available in different formats. Understand that not all students get their online material from one place. Take advantage of creating live streams on your own or with talent agencies via Facebook LIVE, YouTube, Instagram stories, IG LIVE, and Zoom. You will cast a broader net over potential participants if you are able to adapt your programming to several of these platforms while directing them to further access the content via replay areas at the end of your broadcast.
BREAK UP YOUR ONLINE CONTENT
Not only will replay options increase your student engagement through convenient accessibility, but breaking your programming up into manageable sections will also help your online engagement in the same vein. This will let students access learning content in small pieces and not overwhelm them all at one time.
CREATE A LEARNING SERIES
Create a learning series online through your digital campus platform or software that can be completed over a 3 to 6-week period. You can have content sections open weekly, much like an online course, and correlate the learning materials in each section to those learning outcomes you shaped at the beginning of the creation process. As sections of your series open, students can access them when they have time as they work toward a final due date. At the end of the program, offer some type of program incentive to drive learning and completion of your student initiative.
Below are two ways you can bring value to your virtual and online content to make sure students are learning and are engaged:
1.Offer participation incentives with program registration and/or completion.
EXAMPLE: Find a climate change or relatable webinar in conjunction with a holiday like Earth Day 2021. Have participating students complete a short reflection after watching the webinar that they can submit to you online. Once completed, you can send them some type of participation incentive digitally or in the mail, i.e. a digital gift card or a DIY bird feeder from a promotional vendor.
2. Team up with faculty for an online co-curricular program whose course work mirrors your learning outcomes. Our colleagues on the academic side of our colleges could require the online engagement as a part of a course assignment or as extra credit for a student.
Using the previous example, find an earth sciences faculty who will require that students participate in the previously hypothesized Earth Day webinar and incentive program for a grade or extra credit opportunity in their course.
HOW DO I DEMONSTRATE THE VALUE OF ONLINE PROGRAMMING AND ACT I V I T I E S TO MY CAMPUS LEADERSHIP?
One word: assessment. Remember those missions and learning outcomes we talked about earlier? After your online program has ended, you should be assessing indirectly and/or directly if your online program engaged the students properly in order to meet the learning outcomes and the overall mission. Proper assessment is the perfect way to demonstrate student learning and the value of any type of programming (online or face-to-face) to your campus leadership.
Assessment can be accomplished in many ways:
Post-event self-reported surveys
Anecdotes and comments reported by participants after the event
Debrief forms/reflections administered during the online event
Chatbox responses and questions during a live webinar or performance
Digital workbooks that are completed while the online program is taking place
As a campus activities and co-curricular programmer, you should always have an assessment plan created and in place after you have created your learning outcomes for any program, face-to-face or online. Although we did not cover the assessment process thoroughly in this article, be sure to seek out other resources or on-campus colleagues who are familiar with assessment and evaluation protocol.