If you are reading this, chances are your Students’ Union (SU) is thinking of a digital strategy to maneuver the COVID 19 pandemic. As institutions around the globe face unprecedented changes, SUs in response are thinking creatively by exploring innovative ideas and technologies to craft engaging experiences for their peers, especially freshers. To help you be successful, we’ve listed some key guidelines for you and your team to think about:
The bitter truth is COVID19 is here to stay for longer than we think. Running a virtual fair for 1-2 days from 9 – 5 pm might work, but what if you could think a bit more sustainably? For example, one that runs 24/7 and serves students around the globe and throughout the school year, instead of a single weekend? An accessible platform over the long term will provide students with multiple touch points across an extended timeframe to learn about the different offerings, almost like a Help Desk that defeats time zone barriers and hours of operation.
Take something physical and trying to exactly replicate it virtually without thinking about User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) is a challenge. Suppose you want to buy a can of beans online from Tesco and you were expected to navigate through each aisle in the store before you came to the canned foods section! Knowing that will never work, the same concept applies to your virtual student fair. With Neilson Research reporting that users stay on for less than 20 seconds on a webpage – similarly, in the online world, students have limited attention for combing through volumes of options. Instead, introduce instant custom dropdown menus and search options to help them pinpoint their organizations/activities of interest.
Running an online platform with that many students online will generate a lot of valuable data that we like to call “a data gold mine”. Rich data helps you track student engagement/interests across domains, activities, and custom categories. Ensuring you have a comprehensive data strategy plan in place to navigate a virtual fair is vital to not miss out on the rich insights to be gleaned. Furthermore, ensure effective protocols are in place for data storage, privacy and management (e.g. GDPR Compliance).
The best advocates of your institute’s programmes are your own students. When a student talks to a society representative online, we recommend that they engage directly with a current student member instead of a stock photo or digital avatar. This will help build trust and confidence to nurture strong networking and peer relationships.
Ensure that you use responsive design technology to allow accessibility of the platform across multiple device types (e.g. desktop, tablet, mobile). In addition, adapting to various screen sizes without a degradation in quality will guarantee a premiere user experience for your students.
With over 60% of users accessing the Internet via mobile, do committee members have a mobile app to help them stay in touch with students that are interested in their clubs and organizations? Having an ongoing open communication platform allows student organizations to reap the benefits of ongoing digital engagement well after a virtual fair is over. They can instantly reply and respond to queries from peers on the go.
Is the platform branded to your SU guidelines, and can it be integrated to seamlessly help students access it from your official website? Instead of losing meeting links, and using standard mass virtual meeting software platforms, augment user experiences of students with the brand they recall, recognize and trust – your own.