I work at Tufts University, an elite, private institution where JumboLife (our student engagement platform powered by Presence) has been live for less than a year.
Despite its recent arrival to campus, we’ve already had 322 student organizations and over 4,000 students register on the platform. We’ve also received over 1,600 event submissions.
Though some growing pains are inevitable with any debut, we’ve been delighted by the eagerness of our community to engage with our platform. So, I’m going to share some insight into how we generated such incredible buy-in. I’ll even suggest some tips regarding things we wish we would’ve done as we rolled out the engagement platform on campus.
It’s my hope that you’ll be able to take these tips and apply them to your institution! That way, you can get more folks plugged into the digital space that’s sure to make a difference to their collegiate experience.
1. Get your students involved
As you work on building out your institution’s portal, consider collaborating with a trusted group of diverse students. Solicit their feedback on the look, feel, and flow of each component — from the way the organization registration form looks and works, to how the homepage appeals visually.
(By the way, I created a free resource to help you create the perfect student org registration form. Check it out here!)
2. Address an expressed need
When you provide a solution to a problem, students will flock to the answer you’ve found. For example, Tufts was in search of a way to make the virtual orientation experience an engaging and inviting one. JumboLife gave us the ability to do just that while also familiarizing incoming students with the platform. That’s a double-dip bonus!
3. Make their lives easier
JumboLife didn’t make our student organization’s lives more difficult or complicated. Quite the opposite; It actually helped streamline org operations exponentially. We were able to put everything (including organization registration, event calendars, budgeting tools, event requests, and more) onto the platform — which allowed it to become students’ one-stop-shop for running a successful organization.
4. Produce tutorial videos
We filmed instructional videos showing students how to utilize every JumboLife feature, which eliminated the steep learning curve that often comes with familiarizing oneself with new software.
5. Get campus partners on board:
We scheduled multiple information sessions for campus partners during which we walked our colleagues across other campus offices about the capabilities and benefits of JumboLife.
We were also intentional about showcasing the platform’s ability to connect students to various department offerings. In doing so, we built partnerships across campus which, in turn, drove more traffic to the platform.
6. Invite stakeholders in
One of our most critical partners in the JumboLife rollout was the Office for Residential Life and Learning. Because we offered them a platform for program submission and residence hall pages, they offered us auto-enrollment of resident assistants and residential students before the semester even began.
This was helpful because whenever folks visited JumboLife, they were able to see a substantial community already built. In other words, it gave JumboLife clout. Think of this tip in terms of the first follower mindset.
7. Lead by example
We demonstrated to students how easy and awesome it was to utilize JumboLife by using it as if we were a registered organization ourselves. We went through the organization approval process and, once confirmed, submitted our events through the event registration form.
As I mentioned in tip #2, we also used the platform to host our virtual orientation program. Sometimes students need to see things in action before they can wrap their heads around the idea of utilizing your platform for organization management.
8. Make short links for access
Simply put, long URLs don’t stick. They’re tough to remember and, therefore, may inhibit access. So, be sure to create short links that allow students to easily recall how to access your site.
For example, we created jumbolife.tufts.edu, which directs students to tufts.presence.io. Since students know our platform by the JumboLife name and utilize the tufts.edu format for all other university web addresses, this was easier for our students to remember.
9. Have a dedicated troubleshooter
Consider creating an email address dedicated to answering questions about your engagement platform. Then, assign staff to read and respond to all incoming messages so you can ensure that folks receive a response within 1-2 business days.
If Presence is your engagement platform’s host, you can also direct students to the Presence Happiness Team. Perhaps you include the email or chat box directions on your platform’s homepage or set up an auto-reply through your custom email address that directs students to the Happiness Team for urgent matters.
10. Create a marketing plan
This is an area that my coworkers and I wished we’d spent more time on. Although we were able to capture the attention of most first-year students through their orientation programming, we struggled to engage returning students.
Therefore, I’d suggest brainstorming a way to get the word out to upperclass students. This could involve creating a social media campaign, offering to give quick talks to club leaders, or sending out an email blast that includes helpful information about the benefits of the platform.
11. Make it robust
This is your institution’s engagement platform, which means that it should include a plethora of information regarding student activities on campus or in a virtual capacity.
This goes beyond clubs, organizations, and programming. We included library reservation protocols, dining hours, COVID updates, and much more. This made JumboLife a place that students automatically went to in order to see the most up-to-date information about all sorts of campus happenings.
12. Attend your own organization fair
Be your own best advocate! Find a space, whether virtually or in person, wherein you can communicate the purposes of your platform. This is also a great way to get folks to become members of organizations they’re passionate about or answer their questions in real-time. You might even want to pass out branded giveaways, which will draw attendees back to your table.
13. Get an article featured in the parents and family newsletter
If there is anyone who will ensure that information gets to students, you can bet on it being a family member. Parents and families are as involved as ever right now. This is especially true throughout the pandemic, as many families are concerned that their students aren’t being engaged on campus.
If you can snag a feature spot in their newsletter, you’ll be able to ease their stress by showing them the many events and organizations highlighted in your engagement platform for students to participate in.
14. Connect to popular pages
If you know that your students frequently visit your institution’s mobile app or the list of organizations on your department’s website, include a link to your engagement platform on those pages.
When you embed information where students are already looking, you’ll be able to easily redirect them to the place they need to be.
15. Update your infrastructure
Work with your institution’s IT department to find webpages that need to be updated. For example, when we combed through our university’s pages, we noticed that many were connected to our old event calendar. We made note of those places and asked our IT department to re-link them to our new engagement platform.
16. Mandate the platform for your processes
In order for our student organizations to be officially recognized, they are required to submit a certain number of events to our platform. If they fail to do so, they won’t be eligible for any funding through our treasury. Mandating this has helped our student leaders understand the functionality of JumboLife in its entirety.
17. Supply the people power
You want your engagement platform to be a virtual space where students enjoy spending time. In order to provide the best possible experience to those users, you want a team of people who can serve and guide them.
This could be an office assistant, a graduate intern, or a professional staff member who adds this role to their repertoire. They can solicit and implement feedback, plus work on creative ways to strengthen the engagement platform further. You can also lean on your Happiness Expert to ensure that your portal meets the ever-evolving needs of your students.
Students are at the center of everything we do within student affairs. So long as you maintain that attitude as you build out your campus engagement platform, you’ll be providing an experience that elevates their co-curricular lives while at your institution. Thoughtfulness is key to getting students excited about your campus’s engagement platform.
What questions do you still have about onboarding students into your engagement platform? Connect with us on Twitter @HelloPresence.