Engaging new students remotely through virtual programming
“Most of our students attend more than one campus, so it’s really important that no matter where they are, they have the same experience — the same processes, the same forms, all of that.”
Creating a seamless student experience at a college with just one campus can be challenging. Trying to create a seamless experience when you have four campuses to factor in? That can feel monumentally difficult. Each campus has its own unique identity, demographics, and often, entirely different staffing configurations.
This is where Tulsa Community College found itself when the institution was developing its 2016-2020 strategic plan.
At the time, each campus had its own systems and its own student affairs staff. Jennifer Beatie, Dean of Students for Tulsa Community College’s west campus notes that at the time, “each Dean of Students was responsible for everything student affairs on their campus, and every student life office was running just a little bit differently because we were all reporting up to a different Dean.”
The divided set-up was difficult for staff members and it also meant that students had to learn entirely new processes, new staff members, and new systems. Because students tend to take classes at more than one of Tulsa Community College’s four campuses, they experienced inconsistent processes, and that made it difficult for them to know how to — or even want to — get involved.
With the approval of the latest strategic plan, that set-up changed.
In April 2015, Tulsa Community College’s Board of Regents approved the 2016-2020 strategic plan. It’s aptly titled “We All Impact Student Success.” The team at TCC knows that in order for student success to be a possibility, people from all departments on campus need to work together. Because of their multi-campus system, that level of teamwork is particularly difficult and requires precision.
Goal two on their strategic plan is to “enhance student-centered services and processes” and making the move to Presence was a key part of that.
“We were thinking of what students needed, what they do on campus, and how they’re communicating. We knew we needed a technology tool that would help us reach them and keep them connected, especially as they move from campus to campus.” — Jennifer Beatie
Tulsa Community College partnered with Presence in 2015 and since then has been examining all of the ways their four campuses can create a unified student experience. They’ve taken their time, making sure that everything is done right. They designed templates for how students and staff should name and label their events and organizations, ensuring that their events portal looks clean and consistent.
“Because of the complexity of our multi-campus system, we took it really slow. What I didn’t want was one campus to put on ‘WC – Welcome Week Activities’ and then another to put ‘Welcome Week Activities Southeast’ because it would be hard to search. I wanted to take that time where we could build it as one college with one person creating the template.” — Jennifer Beatie
The changes that Tulsa Community College made to improve the student experience weren’t limited to technology. They also overhauled their existing organizational structure. Now, each of the four Deans of Students supervises one of four functional areas — student life, conduct & wellness, advising & careers, and testing & assessment — across all four campuses (Jennifer’s is Student Activities).
Their student government structure has also changed and now there is one SGA President who supervises an Executive Board of eight students from all four campuses. Each campus still has their own Activities Board. These changes have had some pretty significant effects already. Between the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years, the number of students who attended campus events increased by 198%. That means that the number of students engaged has tripled over the previous year. Additionally, between 2016 and 2017, the retention rate of underrepresented students increased 6.5 percentage points.
One of the things that the team at Tulsa Community College is feeling particularly excited about is the ability to collect and compare data about how similar events did at each of their campuses. Presence’s filtering abilities allow campuses to compare results and learn what has been successful and what can be improved.
“I love, love, love that Presence integrates with Banner so that we can capture student information. I also love the fact that, from a multi-campus perspective, we can put, for example, the success fairs from each campus next to each other and compare. We can learn that on one campus, most people attended during a particular hour, but on another campus, that peak hour was different. It’s super helpful to be able to compare that information side-by-side.” — Jennifer Beatie
In the future, Tulsa Community College will use that data to tailor event times and locations to what each campus’ student population best responds to. They’re also in the process of developing their co-curricular framework to help students better understand the connection between involvement beyond the classroom and their future job readiness, all of which they’ll track in Presence. We can’t wait to learn about your findings, TCC!