When COVID-19 hit and students were abruptly sent home, the sense of community that colleges and universities had meticulously created through time-tested methods became severely weakened. But three institutions — Central College, the University of New Hampshire (UNH), and Governor’s State University — are successfully continuing years-long campus community traditions even in the unprecedented era of online classes.
For more than twelve years, these three schools have used Apogee’s Campus Engagement Services to build community on their physical campuses. They rely on Apogee’s marketing specialists – who form part of the service and act as an extension of the school’s team – to customize user-friendly content and campaigns through a web-based portal to help support live events and build community. When the sudden campus shutdowns happened, these three schools successfully pivoted from traditional campaigns to launching a series of virtual campaigns.
Central College leveraged Apogee to support the overstretched Department of Student Involvement and drove outstanding engagement with virtual events. UNH used social media to modernize library mental health programming. And Governor’s State kicked off a campaign encouraging students to submit videos of themselves reading children’s books via an Apogee-managed portal as part of the academic curriculum.
For Central College in Pella, Iowa, the Lip Sync Battle has been a time-honored event. Traditionally held onsite with audience voting, it quickly shifted to a virtual model after the shutdown. The positive results helped Central achieve their goals of building community virtually among matriculated students, boosted their solidarity with the campus, and enabled them to carry on a years-long tradition. A contest-submission portal created for lip sync videos submission and voting heightened participation. Students shot videos using video editing software, then used the moderated Apogee portal as the web infrastructure. Students submitted videos ranging from Tiger King parodies to choreographed dance routines to The Weekend’s latest hit. In the end, the stats showed 800+ votes on submissions at a 1,200-student school.
While Central’s team focused on outreach to students and immediate contingency plans, Apogee created, managed, and reported on the competition infrastructure. Apogee also provided a gift card award to the winning submission, incentivizing students to compete.
“We were thrilled by Apogee’s support for our virtual Lip Sync Battle and Pic of the Year contest,” said Sean Wiseman, Assistant Dean of Students. “Being forced to quickly pivot our small team to a virtual setting as COVID-19 hit was a huge challenge but having the Apogee team to help brainstorm ideas and manage the contests was invaluable. It would have been incredibly challenging—perhaps impossible—but for the creative, expert assistance from the Apogee team. Students loved being able to still enjoy some of their favorite Student Involvement traditions virtually. Our student body engagement exceeded expectations! We couldn’t have done this without Apogee. We’re excited for future partnerships!”
At the University of New Hampshire (UNH), the state’s flagship research university, the library pivoted its traditional Frazzle Free Finals programming to a web-based format in hopes of still being able to provide de-stress and mental health support for the school’s 15,000 students during finals week. Students accessed livestreams to fluffy animals at the zoo instead of the library’s therapy dogs. Guided meditations and yoga classes helped students mentally clock out before their big exams. And students shared study space photos, finals snacks, and yoga poses on social media using #UNHFFF.
UNH traditionally encourages social media traffic using the hashtag and publicizes posts through social reposting and digital signage. In the era of COVID-19, the UNH Library web team embedded an Apogee-managed social media feed into the library website. Apogee curated the posts in real-time to encourage responsive social media conversations, then provided analytics to the library team to inform their Frazzle Free Finals programming in the future. These analytics showed that 11,000 unique profiles were reached by Frazzle Free Finals posts and that 11:00 pm was the most active hour.
“We’ve worked with Apogee every semester for the past six years to support our Frazzle Free Finals mental health programming. Spring 2020 was a new challenge, but the UNH and Apogee teams worked to quickly pivot and together developed a successful virtual event,” said Heather Burroughs, circulation desk manager, Dimond Library.
As the university plans for an altered fall 2020 semester with online finals after Thanksgiving break, the UNH Library team will be collaborating again with Apogee for a virtual mental health campaign.
At Governor’s State University in University Park, IL, the Dean of the College of Education wanted to create a virtual community space so their 5,500 students could connect with peers with an education-themed prompt. Apogee ran a virtual storybook reading contest. Here students either submitted video clips of themselves reading storybook excerpts through a webpage Apogee created for the university, or they posted on social media using the hashtag #GovStateReads.
To generate excitement, Dr. Shannon Dermer, Dean of the College of Education, sent out social media posts and emails about the contest. The contest received more than 780 votes, with the winning video garnering 219 votes.
The Dean sent out a congratulatory email noting: “I’m sure there hasn’t been so much anticipation about the outcome of a vote since the last presidential election. So, without further ado, the results of #GovStateReads are….”
Dr. Dermer said, “Thank you Apogee. Your assistance was great — fast and responsive to needs. I have already heard from some people that they might like to do this again in the Fall.”